State spent $615K to fly migrants to Massachusetts; DeSantis points finger at Biden

Immigration attorney says migrants are refugees and should be treated as such

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis pointed fingers at President Joe Biden Friday amid questions over his decision to fly a group of migrants to Martha’s Vineyard, as others criticize the move.

MIAMI – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis pointed fingers at President Joe Biden Friday amid questions over his decision to fly a group of migrants to Martha’s Vineyard, as others criticize the move.

The Venezuelan migrants who were flown to the wealthy Massachusetts island from San Antonio on Wednesday and were reportedly told they were going to Boston. On Friday, the migrants were being moved voluntarily to a military base on nearby Cape Cod.

New video showed the migrants leaving Martha’s Vineyard for the base, which Massachusetts officials said is better prepared to house the men, women and children.

One migrant said, in Spanish, that he came to “work and help my family in Venezuela who are suffering there.”

DeSantis took from the playbook of a fellow Republican, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, by surprising Democratic strongholds with large influxes of migrants. Providing little or no information is part of the plan.

“They were told that they would have a job and they would have housing,” said Elizabeth Folcarelli, who leads Martha’s Vineyard Community Services and described the scramble for shelter as a “huge challenge.”

Julio Henriquez, an attorney who met with several migrants, said they “had no idea of where they were going or where they were”.

Two flights to Martha’s Vineyard stopped in the Florida Panhandle, Henriquez said. While on board, migrants got brochures and maps of Massachusetts.

In San Antonio, a Latina woman approached migrants at a city-run shelter and put them up at a nearby La Quinta Inn, where she visited daily with food and gift cards, Henriquez said. She promised jobs and three months of housing in Washington, New York, Philadelphia and Boston.

Local 10 News learned Friday that the DeSantis administration spent $615,000 to fly the migrants from San Antonio to New England.

The governor pointed fingers at Biden Friday, calling his immigration policies reckless.

“At the end of the day this is a massive policy failure by the president,” DeSantis said. “He didn’t scramble to get his cabinet together when he was millions of people pouring across the southern border.”

Earlier this month, DeSantis said, in response to questions regarding Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez’s controversial comments about busing migrants to Delaware: “It applies to people illegally crossing the southern border who want to come to Florida.”

A Miami immigration attorney said the governor is wrong about the status of these migrants.

“They’re no longer illegal or undocumented,” attorney Willy Allen said. “They’re refugees.”

The same, Allen said, as the nearly 200,000 Cubans who have crossed the border illegally since last October, many of whom are now here in South Florida.

“We’re a country that stands up for human rights,” he said. “We’re not Russia. We’re not Cuba. We’re not Venezuela. We don’t pack people in a bus and send them some place with a false promise.”

In downtown Miami, Local 10 News caught up with mayors attending the United States Conference of Mayors.

Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has been the target of similar tactics.

“We know that we have to have less chaos, less politics and more focused on how to solve the problem on the southern border,” she said.

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez also weighed in.

“I’m opposed to both Republicans and Democrats using people to make political points on something so sensitive and so vulnerable as people who are immigrants,” Suarez said.

Suarez said Miami is a thriving city of immigrants, so there should also be compassion. He said there is plenty of blame to go around for both parties and said Democrats and Republicans need to come together to fix a “broken” immigration system.

About the Authors:

In January 2017, Hatzel Vela became the first local television journalist in the country to move to Cuba and cover the island from the inside. During his time living and working in Cuba, he covered some of the most significant stories in a post-Fidel Castro Cuba. 

Chris Gothner joined the Local 10 News team in 2022 as a Digital Journalist.