TAMPA, Fla. — Dozens of migrants arrived Wednesday afternoon at Martha's Vineyard on behalf of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
The 50 migrants made up of men, women and children were flown out on two planes to Massachusetts as part of what DeSantis calls the state's relocation program. Most of the migrants are believed to be from Venezuela.
Speaking on Thursday, the governor suggested the move was to prevent those migrants from coming to Florida.
"You have folks who are inclined to think Florida is a good place," DeSantis said. "Our message to them is we are not a sanctuary state and it's better to be able to go to a sanctuary jurisdiction, and yes, we will help facilitate that transport for you, to be able to go to greener pastures."
There is no question, we have a lot of Venezuelan natives in Florida. According to census data, more than half of those living in the U.S. have settled in the Sunshine State.
Ana Maria Tague came to Tampa on a travel visa in 1992, then married an American man. She said most Venezuelan immigrants she knows have a more challenging path to the United States.
"The people who leave there, it's because they're desperate. Bottom line — desperate," Tague said.
Tague says government corruption, lack of opportunity and resources are what push Venezuelans to leave their country.
"They can't find food, they can't find work, they can't find anything. It's like survival," she said. "That's extreme survival!"
Since 2016, she has run the non-profit AnaVenUSA and says they've shipped more than 65,000 pounds of donated goods to those in need in Venezuela.
"We have to focus on solutions and my solution is sending help over there, sending food, clothing, medical supplies, you name it," Tague said.
In that spirit, she is glad to see Venezuelans seeking sanctuary and opportunity have now found that in the U.S., no matter where that is.
"Everybody has to do something, so I'm grateful that the people over there in Martha's Vineyard are helping them and are giving them an opportunity to get a better life," Tague said.
However, Venezuelan activists who spoke Thursday outside of Miami accuse DeSantis of playing politics with their lives.
"We demand him to stop using our pain, our suffering, and our desperation for his political gains," Executive Director of Venezuelan American Caucus Adelys Ferro said.
Ana Maria Tague, however, only hopes people can view this situation with empathy.
"You have to do what is best for you and whatever you think is going to get you better and to a better place and opportunity," Tague said.