Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has been telegraphing Martha's Vineyard migrant flights for months

Zac Anderson

Gov. Ron DeSantis has been telegraphing for months that he might fly migrants to Martha's Vineyard, including during a speech in December and more recently to donors gathered at the Four Seasons hotel Orlando.

The governor mentioned Martha's Vineyard during a press conference last December to push the Legislature for funding to relocate migrants.

“It’s somewhat tongue in cheek, but it is true,” DeSantis said. “If you sent [them] to Delaware or Martha’s Vineyard or some of these places, that border would be secure the next day.”

DeSantis also previewed his plan in a speech to donors, mentioning that the Vineyard was on his radar as a possible migrant destination at the Sept. 9 event in Orlando.

“I do have this money. I want to be helpful. Maybe we will go to Texas and help. Maybe we’ll send to Chicago, Hollywood, Martha’s Vineyard. Who knows?” DeSantis told top GOP donors, according to the Washington Post, which cited a person in the room.

By the way:Venezuelans, Cubans, fleeing dictatorships, represent a new face of migrants at U.S.-Mexico border

Migrants were promised jobs, free housing to transport them to Martha's Vineyard

Delaware is President Joe Biden's home state

Delaware is President Joe Biden's home state, but he eventually settled on Martha's Vineyard instead, paying for a two charter flights from Texas with about 50 migrants, mostly from Venezuela. He did not inform Massachusetts officials about his plan.

DeSantis later defended his decision, saying the Biden administration’s border security policies were failing and that Florida is not a “sanctuary state.”

A woman, who is part of a group of immigrants that had just arrived, holds a child as they are fed outside St. Andrews Episcopal Church, Wednesday Sept. 14, 2022, in Edgartown, Mass., on Martha's Vineyard. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday flew two planes of immigrants to Martha's Vineyard, escalating a tactic by Republican governors to draw attention to what they consider to be the Biden administration's failed border policies.

The flights have generated an uproar from critics who say the governor is using migrants as political pawns.

Republican leaders in Texas and Arizona also have been shipping migrants to more liberal locations, paying to bus them to New York City and Washington D.C.. But DeSantis' migrant flights have been especially controversial amid accusations that deceptive tactics were used to lure them onto airplanes and send them to a remote location. 

The governor's comments to donors indicate Martha's Vineyard was on his radar days before the flights occurred. The exclusive Massachusetts island retreat is home to some of the wealthiest people in the nation, many of them high-profile liberals. Former President Barack Obama has a home on the Vineyard.

Follow Herald-Tribune Political Editor Zac Anderson on Twitter at @zacjanderson. He can be reached at zac.anderson@heraldtribune.com