Mayor Lauren Poe tells Ron DeSantis administration to send migrants, $12 million to Gainesville

Andrew Caplan
The Gainesville Sun

Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe is asking for the state to send Venezuelan immigrants to the city he oversees and says that the influx of residents would be welcomed with open arms.

The mayor's comments were written on Twitter in response to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis taking credit for sending two planes of immigrants to Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts last week at the cost of taxpayers to showcase his disapproval of the Biden administration's immigration policies.

Poe said the immigrants would be welcomed in Gainesville and add to the city's "cultural and economic foundation."

"Instead of sending families fleeing violence in Venezuela to Martha's Vineyard, bring them to Gainesville, along with the $12m," he wrote, adding that the taxpayer funds would be used to provide housing.

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The relocation program was quietly approved in Florida's budget this year, allocating $12 million for the initiative that called for Florida to contract with private transportation companies to send people to other parts of the country. No details on the program were released to the public until last Wednesday — DeSantis' birthday.

Fox News was given an exclusive on the relocation program that evening, airing provided video footage of the migrants arriving at the location, along with statements from DeSantis administration officials.

"States like Massachusetts, New York and California will better facilitate the care of these individuals who they have invited into our country by incentivizing illegal immigration through their designation as ‘sanctuary states’ and support for the Biden administration’s open border policies," the governor's spokesperson, Taryn Fenske, said in a statement to Fox.

DeSantis follows Texas Governor Greg Abbott's lead

The program is similar to the one Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has been using to send migrants to Washington, D.C., and New York. The Republican governor on Saturday also sent about 50 more people, including a baby, to Vice President Kamala Harris' home, the Houston Chronicle reported.

Some have questioned the legality of transporting people over state lines, with some liking the move to human trafficking and using immigrants as props to score political points with the Republican base.

Florida's first 'Welcoming City'

Gainesville, which was the first city in Florida to receive the destination as a "Welcoming City," has made several immigrant-friendly moves in recent years.

Leaders have ordered police to not report undocumented people to federal authorities and have kick-started a translation program to better help non-English speaking residents navigate the city and its services.

Some on Twitter appeared to agree with the mayor's idea, with one saying they would rather live in Gainesville than Martha's Vineyard anyway.

"If the numbers are true for that price (DeSantis) could of bought each of them a house with money left over," wrote one user in response to Poe. "Ridiculous waste of tax dollars for a publicity stunt that wont help anyone."

Others took the opportunity to attack Poe for other long-standing issues in the community.

"Maybe do better with GRU," one person wrote. "Why is my 2 bedroom apartments energy bill on par with upstate MY mortgage for a 5 bedroom house?"

"Why?," asked another user. "So they can become homeless and add to the problem in Gainesville? ... why don't you actually try to fix the problems you have in your city!"