TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa city leaders criticized Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' move to fly planes carrying immigrants to Martha's Vineyard on Wednesday, saying the people are being used as a "political prop."
The governor's communication director, Taryn Fenske, told The Associated Press the flights are part of an effort to "transport illegal immigrants to sanctuary destinations." Included in the latest state budget was $12 million to establish a program within the Department of Transportation to "facilitate the transport" of undocumented persons out of Florida.
NPR reports a plane originated in San Antonio, made a stop in Florida and another stop in South Carolina before flying to Martha's Vineyard. Migrants interviewed by the outlet said they didn't spend time in Florida.
Reacting to public comment during Tuesday's Tampa City Council meeting, councilmember Luis Viera said he'd be glad to make a motion prompting city officials to draft a letter to denounce DeSantis' move.
"What among many things that gets me mad about that is those are Venzeualans, it appears, who are fleeing the Maduro regime — a Marxist, communist regime like my family fled in 1960 — and they're being used as a political prop to troll people and to feed more political fast food to a base," Viera said. "And it really makes me angry."
Many migrants who cross the border illegally from Mexico are temporarily shielded from deportation after being freed by U.S. authorities to pursue asylum in immigration court — as allowed under U.S law and international treaty — or released on humanitarian parole, according to the AP.
DeSantis' decision, like that of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, further intensifies a tactic to criticize what they call President Joe Biden's administration's failed border policies.
The migrants arriving at Martha's Vineyard, where former President Barack Obama has a home, face a shortage of affordable housing while at the end of the summer season when seasonal work has ended, according to the New York Times.
One who said he was from Venezuela told the outlet the islanders were generous, giving him a pair of shoes.
Terry MacCormack, the press secretary for Republican Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, told the Times his administration is working with local officials to provide "short-term shelter services" to the migrants.