May 22, 2024
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R) decision to send a plane of immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, last week ignited a fiery debate about what lawmakers should do with the historically high number of immigrants crossing the southern border — as well as scrutiny of what the Biden administration has already done.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R) decision to send a plane of immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, last week ignited a fiery debate about what lawmakers should do with the historically high number of immigrants crossing the southern border — as well as scrutiny of what the Biden administration has already done.

Many Republicans cheered DeSantis for forcing an uncomfortable conversation about immigration on a liberal enclave that has suffered little from the consequences of the border crisis. Democrats accused DeSantis of exploiting 48 immigrants for political gain in a stunt they argued could be illegal, as well as morally wrong.

But the move has also focused attention on the extensive efforts the Biden administration has undertaken in previous months to distribute immigrants, often minors, to cities and states that did not want to receive them.

DeSantis’s critics complained about the lack of advance notice the Florida Republican gave to Martha’s Vineyard before the immigrants arrived in a small town that was ill-equipped to deal with the arrivals.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, both Republicans, had already drawn the ire of Democratic leaders in Washington, D.C., and New York City for busing thousands of immigrants to each city over the summer in an effort to highlight the border crisis.

Both had argued President Joe Biden’s immigration policies placed disproportionate burdens on their states and that Democratic leaders who designated their cities as “sanctuaries” for undocumented immigrants should help accommodate them.


Before Abbott, Ducey, and DeSantis made headlines for sending immigrants where they are not wanted, Biden’s federal agencies flew or bused immigrants to several places where local leaders have objected.

The flights appear to be related to federal attempts at resettling unaccompanied minors with relatives or approved sponsors scattered throughout the country.

While this is a long-standing practice, the number of children crossing the border without their families has skyrocketed over the past year, putting a strain on the state and local resources available for those immigrants.

And the Biden administration’s approach to resettling the undocumented immigrants, as well as its pick of destinations, has ruffled feathers.

The Biden administration spent months, for example, flying immigrants to a suburban airport outside New York City despite concerns from some locals about the influx of children and young adults.

Federal officials sent more than 2,000 immigrants to Westchester County and nearby areas between June and October of last year, prompting questions even from Democratic lawmakers.

Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY) complained that the Biden administration was withholding information about the flights, which reportedly occurred largely at night and in secret.

“We need information from the administration. Where are they sending these kids? So that the school districts can be prepared for the influx of kids, and then we need to get them money,” Suozzi said in October. “I am just angry and frustrated.”

Republicans in a blue-collar region of Pennsylvania complained when the Biden administration began flying immigrants to airports in Scranton and Allentown without warning.

Rep. Dan Meuser (R-PA) said he had an unsatisfying conversation with Biden administration officials after demanding answers about migrant flights landing near his district.

“We’ve had these secretive flights, or their attempts to be secretive, into the Scranton Wilkes-Barre area,” Meuser said in January.

“They’ve no respect for the people of Pennsylvania or the citizens of the country to be handling this in such a clandestine manner,” Meuser added.

Dozens of flights shuttled immigrants from the border to Jacksonville last year, according to DeSantis’s office, which said the Biden administration refused to provide information about who the immigrants were or where they were being taken once the flights touched down in Florida.

DeSantis’s office said more than 70 migrant flights arrived last summer, prompting the state of Florida to file a lawsuit against the Biden administration over immigration policies that DeSantis and others have blamed for worsening the migration crisis.

In Iowa, Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds said her office had no warning about the arrival of nearly two dozen immigrant children at the Des Moines airport in April of last year.

Reynolds said her state had so little information about the arrival of the immigrant flight in Des Moines that authorities investigated whether they had encountered a “criminal act of human trafficking.”

Rep. Cindy Axne (D-IA), who is in danger of losing her reelection bid this year, also complained about the secrecy Biden’s Department of Health and Human Services seemingly engaged in when Iowa leaders asked about the flight.

“I join Gov. Reynolds in demanding further investigation and disclosure from HHS to determine why this flight was kept secret and why its existence was denied to both the public and to the public officials seeking to learn the whole truth,” Axne said at the time.

Tennessee leaders objected when the Biden administration began sending immigrant flights to their state as well.

The Biden administration reportedly sent at least four planes of immigrants to Chattanooga, Tennessee, last year.


State Republicans complained at the time that they had no warning of the migrant flights.

“Our office has received no information from the Biden administration informing us of a mass transportation of migrants to Tennessee,” Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) said in May 2021. “It is absolutely unacceptable if the Biden administration is facilitating a mass migration without any input or oversight from Tennesseans and the affected communities.”

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) said at the time that he had denied a request from the Biden administration for his state to accept unaccompanied minors who had crossed the border but that the administration sent them anyway.

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