Florida’s governor Ron DeSantis is taking credit for sending two planes carrying about 50 migrants to the wealthy island of Martha’s Vineyard.
It is part of the state’s programme to send migrants to “sanctuary destinations”, a statement says.
This appears to be an escalation of a tactic which has seen Republican states bus migrants to Democratic areas.
Martha’s Vineyard, in Massachusetts, is a resort and traditional summer destination for Hollywood stars.
The island – with its population of around 20,000 – was famously used as the location for the 1975 Steven Spielberg classic Jaws. Former President Barack Obama is among those who have holiday homes in the area.
“Florida can confirm the two planes with illegal immigrants that arrived in Martha’s Vineyard today were part of the state’s relocation program to transport illegal immigrants to sanctuary destinations,” Governor DeSantis’s communications director Taryn Fenske said in a statement.
The migrants, including children, arrived at about 15:00 (11:00 GMT) on Wednesday without any warning, according to Massachusetts State Senator Julian Cyr, who represents Martha’s Vineyard.
Officials and volunteers then “moved heaven and earth” to set up the response like “we would do in the event of a hurricane”, he said. Migrants were given food and clothing, as well as being tested for Covid.
Many did not know where they were, according to Massachusetts state representative Dylan Fernandes. They had been told they would be given housing and jobs, he said.
States such as Texas and Arizona, on the US border, have sent thousands of migrants to cities like Chicago, New York and Washington, which they accuse of encouraging migration by failing to fully enforce immigration laws.
Places like “Massachusetts, New York, and California” will better care for migrants, Taryn Fenske, Ron DeSantis’s communications director, said in a statement.
Christina Pushaw, a spokesperson for DeSantis’ re-election campaign, said Martha’s Vineyard should be “thrilled”. “They vote for sanctuary cities – they get a sanctuary city of their own. And illegal aliens will increase the town’s diversity, which is strength. Right?”
So-called sanctuary cities are cities that have policies to aid undocumented immigrants.
Governor Ron DeSantis has previously cited Martha’s Vineyard as a possible destination for migrants being sent out of his state, telling reporters last year that if they were, the “border would be secure the next day”. This year, Florida representatives set aside $12m (£10.4m) for transporting migrants.
The Republican – a fierce opponent to mask and vaccine mandates during the pandemic – won his first election in 2018 and has since become one of the most admired governors in the country among the party faithful.
He is widely seen by Republicans as a natural successor to former President Donald Trump, who also railed against “sanctuary cities”, at one point saying he planned to free immigration detaines in those areas.
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