DeSantis lets migrants ride bus to Martha’s Vineyard: Explainer

Since the spring, Republican governors have brought thousands of migrants to Democratic strongholds. Here is a look at the legal situation.

WASHINGTON — Republican governors have sent more migrants released at the US-Mexico border to Democratic strongholds, raising questions about their legal status, how they are lured onto buses and planes and the cost to taxpayers.

Ron DeSantis from Florida flew about 50 Venezuelans to the small, upscale island of Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts last week. Over the weekend, Texas resident Greg Abbott brought more migrants to Vice President Kamala Harris’ home in Washington.

RELATED: “Lured under false pretenses” | Bexar County Sheriff is investigating after migrants flew from San Antonio to Florida’s Martha’s Vineyard

US authorities are grappling with an unusually large number of migrants crossing the border from Mexico amid a rapidly changing demographic. The administration said Monday that people from Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua made up more than one in three migrants stopped at the border in August. Authorities stopped migrants 2.15 million times from October to August, the first time over 2 million during the government’s fiscal year.

Since April, Texas has bused about 8,000 migrants to Washington, 2,200 to New York and 300 to Chicago. Arizona has run more than 1,800 buses to Washington since May, while the city of El Paso, Texas, has run more than 1,100 buses to New York since Aug. 23.

Here are some questions and answers:


Yes, temporarily. Tens of thousands of migrants crossing the border illegally from Mexico are released each month in the United States, with requests to appear before an immigration court to seek asylum or on humanitarian probation with the requirement to report regularly to immigration authorities Report. Migrants can apply for asylum if they enter the country illegally under US and international law, and US authorities have broad powers to grant parole based on individual circumstances.

RELATED: Yes, Florida has committed $12 million to ship migrants out of state

Migrants must have a current address with authorities that schedule appointments in a city with the nearest court or immigration office. You have to apply for the work permit separately.

Last year, it took an average of almost four years for asylum cases to be decided in an immigration court, according to the Biden administration, leaving migrants in a legal purgatory that shields them from deportation. The backlog at the immigration courts has grown to more than 1.9 million casesaccording to Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse.

To avoid massive prison overcrowding, the administration began releasing many migrants humanitarian parole. The Border Patrol was almost paroled 250,000 migrants from August to June, including 40,151 in June, the latest published figures. Only 11 migrants have been paroled in the previous seven months.


Kidnapping is a high legal threshold, but migrants flown to Martha’s Vineyard say they were taken there under false pretenses. Migrants sign waivers stating that transportation is free and voluntary.

DeSantis took advantage of a state program that allows migrants deemed “unauthorized aliens” to be relocated “from Florida,” though the governor has acknowledged the flights originated in Texas.

They stopped in Florida first before going to Martha’s Vineyard, but DeSantis didn’t point that out. Instead, he claims the two flights were a legitimate use of funds because otherwise the migrants would have attempted to go to Florida, although he offered no evidence of this and did not say how migrants might have been screened.

Migrants who boarded the flights told The Associated Press that a woman who approached them at a San Antonio animal shelter promised jobs and three months of housing in Washington, New York, Philadelphia and Boston.

On Monday, Javier Salazar, the sheriff of Bexar County, which includes San Antonio, launched an investigation into the flights, but the Democrat-elect didn’t say what laws might have been violated. Other Democrats have called on the US Justice Department to investigate, including California Gov. Gavin Newsom and US Rep. Joaquin Castro, whose district includes San Antonio.


Yes, but under different circumstances. Like previous administrations, it transports migrants between detention facilities, often en route to deportation from the country.

According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, there were more than 4,800 domestic flights last year, including 434 in August witness of the border, a group criticizing US enforcement. The top five travel destinations from March through August were: Alexandria, Louisiana; Laredo, Texas; Phoenix; and Harlingen and El Paso in Texas. ICE also carries many migrants.

The Department of Health and Social Care transports unaccompanied children to “sponsors”, who are often families or child-only detention facilities.


Republican-led states say they send migrants to “sanctuary cities” that welcome immigrants. While the definition of a city of refuge is slippery, a sudden influx of migrants can test attitudes and the limits of generosity.

Chicago’s “Welcoming City Ordinance” prohibits asking people about their immigration status, denying services based on immigration status, and providing information to federal immigration authorities.

New York restricts cooperation with US immigration authorities, in part by banning police officers from participating in joint enforcement or allowing immigration officers to work in city jails.

In Martha’s Vineyard, the six cities that make up the island south of Boston have not issued “sanctuary” statements.

The Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates for restrictions, is halting extensive list of “sanctuary” jurisdictions, which by definition limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities. This includes Boston and seven other cities in Massachusetts. None of the towns in Martha’s Vineyard are on the list.


Texas has committed billions of dollars to Abbott’s “Operation Lone Star,” an unprecedented step toward border security that includes bus rides, prosecutions of frontier workers for trespassing, and the massive presence of state troops and the National Guard.

RELATED: Operation Lone Star has sent more than 10,000 migrants outside of Texas

The Florida Legislature has earmarked $12 million for its program this fiscal year.

The city of El Paso, which last week signed a private bus company at a cost of up to $2 million, plans to seek reimbursement from the federal government. DeSantis lets migrants ride bus to Martha’s Vineyard: Explainer

Laura Coffey

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