President Joe Biden on Tuesday dismissed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ latest move to relocate migrants to more liberal states while noting that sending them back to certain countries is “not rational” – a rare acknowledgment of the national conversation on immigration sparked by Republican governors.
“He should come visit. We have a beautiful shoreline,” Biden told reporters, responding to a question about DeSantis reportedly sending migrants to the president’s home state of Delaware.
The president’s comments come days after the DeSantis administration sent two plans of about 50 Venezuelans from Florida to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, drawing outrage for what some have called a political stunt that uses migrants as pawns. While the Florida governor said in a Tuesday news conference that he couldn’t confirm the Delaware reports, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the administration and local officials were preparing for arrivals.
“We have received word of the flights and, yes, we are coordinating closely with state officials and local service providers who are prepared to welcome these families in an orderly manner as they pursue their asylum claims,” Jean-Pierre said.
DeSantis is just the latest GOP governor to adopt such a tactic. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey have recently taken credit for busing migrants north to blue cities such as New York and Washington, DC The moves appear to be part of an emerging political point of attack for Republicans – blaming Biden for the rising number of migrants crossing the border while sending them to areas represented by prominent Democratic lawmakers or with so-called “sanctuary” policies where local officials decline to cooperate with federal immigration law.
“Florida is not a sanctuary state,” Taryn Fenske, DeSantis’ communications director, said in a statement. “We will continue to facilitate a program to assist the transportation of illegal immigrants to sanctuary cities and states across the country.”
US Customs and Border Protection confirmed the increase in a Monday news releasenoting a 2% bump in the amount of unique encounters that occurred from July to August that was “driven largely by an increased number of asylum seekers fleeing authoritarian regimes in Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua.”
“There are fewer and fewer immigrants coming from Central America and from Mexico,” Biden added on Tuesday. “It’s a totally different circumstance. What’s on my watch now is Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua, and the ability to send them back to those states is not rational.”
The federal government is even assisting localities amid the influence through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and some local leaders are taking advantage of the situation. After officials in the Texas city of El Paso sent migrants away on a bus charter to New York City, one local official noted to El Paso Matters that the transportation services were reimbursable through FEMA.
“As FEMA receives requests for support from local governments and non-profits, FEMA will work with the National Board for the Emergency Food and Shelter Program to review application requests,” an agency spokesperson said in a statement provided to US News.
It’s unclear if Florida officials will similarly take advantage of this opportunity. But DeSantis has already said he will use the $12 million allocated by the state legislature toward the migrant relocation efforts. That funding is available because of interest earned on federal COVID-19 stimulus aid, as reported by Washington Post.
DeSantis’ press team did not respond to several requests for comment on whether the administration would seek federal reimbursement for the Martha’s Vineyard flights.