The governors of Texas and Arizona have bused thousands of migrants to New York, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., in recent months. But the latest moves—including two flights to Martha’s Vineyard paid for by Florida—are next-level. Critics call the actions inhumane; proponents hope they’re getting the government’s attention.
Governors along the southern U.S. border are tired of feeling like no one understands their woes. In response, they’re sending migrants to places with politicians who seem deaf to their pleas for help—mostly without advance warning.
Upon arrival in Martha’s Vineyard, the vacation island south of Boston, the town appeared to absorb dozens of mainly Venezuelan migrants without a major hitch. Most soon had meals, shelter, health care, and information about where to find work.
Elizabeth Folcarelli, chief executive of a community nonprofit, was wrapping up work when she saw 48 Venezuelans with luggage and backpacks approach her office.
“They were told that they would have a job and they would have housing,” says Folcarelli. She describes the scramble for shelter as a “huge challenge.”
Migrants played soccer and hung out in small groups while meeting visiting attorneys—who gave free advice—and other service providers.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis says the flights to Martha’s Vineyard were part of an effort to “transport illegal immigrants to sanctuary destinations.” The Florida Legislature has earmarked $12 million to transport “unauthorized aliens” out of state.
On Thursday, two buses arrived at the home of Vice President Kamala Harris at the United States Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C. The buses from Texas carried more than 100 migrants from Colombia, Cuba, Guyana, Nicaragua, Panama, and Venezuela.
“The Biden-Harris administration continues ignoring and denying the historic crisis at our southern border, which has endangered and overwhelmed Texas communities for almost two years,” Texas Governor Greg Abbott says.
Here’s what happens: After migrants seeking asylum cross the U.S.-Mexico border, they spend time in a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility along the border. Then they are usually released into the United States to wait out their cases.
Republicans say President Biden’s policies encourage migrants to vanish into the country. Democrats argue the Trump-era policy of forcing migrants to wait out their asylum cases in Mexico was inhumane.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre says federal officials were not told in advance about the transportation of migrants to Massachusetts and Washington.
“We’re talking about children; we’re talking about families who were promised a home, promised a job, put on a bus, and driven to a place that they do not know,” says Jean-Pierre, who called the governors’ actions a “cruel, premeditated political stunt.”
Abbott has bused 7,900 migrants to Washington since April, later sending 2,200 to New York and 300 to Chicago. Arizona Governor Doug Ducey has bused more than 1,800 migrants to Washington since May. Passengers must sign waivers that the free trips are voluntary.
DeSantis has begun using planes. He chose Martha’s Vineyard, whose harbor towns are home to about 15,000 people. The area is far less prepared than New York or Washington for large migrant influxes.
Texas and Florida infuriated officials in destination cities by failing to provide passenger rosters, estimated times of arrival, and other information that would allow cities to prepare. In contrast, Arizona has coordinated with officials in other cities.
President Biden is facing the same challenges of former President Trump: a broken U.S. asylum system and massive migrant influxes from other countries.
Some Republicans celebrated the latest delivery of migrants from border states.
“Welcome to being a state on the Southern border, Massachusetts,” tweeted DeSantis spokesman Jeremy Redfern.
Stephen Miller, a Trump administration immigration advisor, was even more sarcastic. He says bringing “a few million” migrants to Martha’s Vineyard should transform the island of about 15,000 people into “a modern Eden.”
How do you think Christians should respond to these “shipments” of other humans into such areas without giving advance notice for making preparations? Does the political point being made warrant that kind of treatment of fellow image-bearers of our God?
(Immigrants gather with their belongings outside St. Andrews Episcopal Church on Wednesday September 14, 2022, in Edgartown, Massachusetts, on Martha’s Vineyard. Ray Ewing/Vineyard Gazette via AP)