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The reaction in Florida over its governor's actions sending migrants to Massachusetts

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has been unmoved by the criticism that the flights of migrants he sent to Martha's Vineyard were inhumane and a political stunt. He says Florida plans to continue with a program that will send planes and buses of migrants to places he identifies as sanctuary jurisdictions. NPR's Greg Allen has been covering the governor's actions from Miami, and he's with us now to tell us more.

Greg, thanks so much for being here.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Sure, Michel.

MARTIN: So could you just remind us why Governor DeSantis wanted to send these flights to Martha's Vineyard specifically?

ALLEN: Well, you know, for months, DeSantis has railed against President Biden's immigration policies at nearly every event he held. And he holds them almost every day. He thinks Biden hasn't done enough to stop the record flow of migrants coming over the southern border. And so he's been talking about sending them to places like Martha's Vineyard. We first heard him mention Martha's Vineyard last December. And, you know, he was educated at Harvard and Yale himself, but he sees that area, that island, as a bastion of what he calls liberal elites. Why has he singled it out? And DeSantis is positioning himself, of course, for a possible run for the 2024 presidential - Republican presidential nomination. And so an indication of what's going on here is that the video of the migrants arriving in Martha's Vineyard was first supplied and shown on Fox News. We don't know who supplied it, but the suspicion is that it was done by a videographer hired by the governor's staff.

MARTIN: And so one assumes that this is considered to play well with people who he thinks are his base, I guess.

ALLEN: Right. If he could - exactly. He - looking for the MAGA vote.

MARTIN: So what's the - but what's the political thinking behind the decision to move migrants from Texas and not his own state?

ALLEN: Right. It's very interesting because, you know, Florida has not received the record numbers of migrants seen at the Texas border. But we do get migrants here. But the ones who come here without visas are people who arrive by boat, you know, whether - some - usually from somewhere in the Caribbean. And busing migrants out of Florida has become a very - is a very touchy issue politically. Recently, DeSantis's lieutenant governor was forced to walk back comments she made. She was talking about we'll bus people out of Florida with - who don't have documents. And people said, do you mean Cubans? And so she was talking about sending them to Delaware.

And then she had to backtrack from that. And later, DeSantis also emphasized they didn't mean Cubans who are - Cuban Americans are an important Republican voting bloc in South Florida and one of the largest migrant groups here. So instead, DeSantis says, the state is going to go to Texas to intercept migrants there who might be headed to Florida. And he says the state's working with contractors there to, in his words, profile migrants that might be headed to Florida. And then they would - we will send them elsewhere is his thoughts. And he says more flights are coming.

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RON DESANTIS: The legislature gave me $12 million. We're going to spend every penny of that to make sure that we're protecting the people of the state of Florida.

ALLEN: The protection that DeSantis is talking about is mostly about avoiding the costs of accommodating migrants who are awaiting immigration proceedings, like the group that he sent to Martha's Vineyard.

MARTIN: OK, Greg, but that nearly 50 people that Florida put on flights are mostly Venezuelan. They fled a country under the control of Nicolas Maduro, who many Americans see as a dictator. They are likely to make an asylum claim. Florida has a history of accommodating Cubans. So how do people see this here when people are also fleeing a left-wing dictatorship?

ALLEN: Right. Well, South Florida is home to the nation's largest Venezuelan population. And many of those who are citizens have supported DeSantis and other Republicans in the past, in part because of the Republican anti-socialist campaign rhetoric. DeSantis's action targeting Venezuelans came as a shock to many here. They've been amazed that the Republicans who've supported them in getting rid of Maduro wouldn't help the people who are actually penalized by them. And so there's questions about this - how this might affect him going down the road here.

MARTIN: That is NPR's Greg Allen in Miami. Greg, thank you.

ALLEN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As NPR's Miami correspondent, Greg Allen reports on the diverse issues and developments tied to the Southeast. He covers everything from breaking news to economic and political stories to arts and environmental stories. He moved into this role in 2006, after four years as NPR's Midwest correspondent.
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