A jet thought to be carrying migrants from Texas to an airport near Joe Biden’s summer home in Delaware was reportedly stopping – at least temporarily – in New Jersey, but that hasn’t stopped the threat of another Florida-backed immigration transport from sending ripples across US politics.
The day began on Tuesday with reports that a charter jet was bound for the Georgetown Delaware Coastal Airport.
It was the same plane used last week in Florida governor Ron DeSantis’s scheme to transport nearly 50, mostly Venezuelan, migrants to the small luxury destination island of Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.
The Delaware airstrip is near the president’s home in Rehoboth Beach.
Public records showed the state of Florida paid the jet company nearly $1m the day before the flight, and conservatives like senator Ted Cruz have been openly calling for surprise migrant flights to Rehoboth Beach.
As of 8.40 pm eastern time, the plane, which left Texas on Tuesday afternoon after hours of delays, remained at a planned stop in Teterboro, New Jersey, according to publicly available flight data.
The fate of the flight remains unknown, and Mr DeSantis said on Tuesday he “cannot confirm” reports of the transport, but even the threat of another surprise migrant dump spurred officials at all levels of government.
On the ground in Delaware, officials and social service providers in the Georgetown area prepared for an influx of migrants, working with the governor’s office, the Delaware Emergency Management Agency, and the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services in coordination with local groups.
State officials said the governors office hadn’t been given any notice of a flight from Texas or Florida.
The White House also said it was helping coordinate planning.
“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,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Tuesday.
Mr Biden took a more light-hearted tone, joking about the flight to Delaware and urging governor DeSantis to visit the state.
“He should come visit, we have a beautiful shoreline,” Mr Biden told reporters on Tuesday when asked to respond to Mr DeSantis’s latest gambit.
At an event on Tuesday, Mr DeSantis defended Florida’s controversial migrant flights, even as legal scrutiny of the plan mounts.
“Sanctuary jurisdictions should bear the brunt of the open borders,” the GOP governor said.
He also accused the Biden administration of driving record immigration, even though Mr Biden has kept many of Donald Trump’s most hard-line border policies, and a variety of factors well beyond the White House are causing the spike.
“He inherited a border that wasn’t like this,” Mr DeSantis said. “He has created a crisis.”
The White House fired back at the Florida governor on Tuesday, accusing him of abusing vulnerable people.
“When you think about what’s going on in Venezuela, when you think about what’s going on in Nicaragua, when you think about what’s going on in Cuba – they are fleeing political persecution only to be used as a political pawn by the Florida governor,” press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.
The migrants aboard the Martha’s Vineyard flight sued governor DeSantis on Tuesday, calling the trip a “fraudulent and discriminatory scheme” because it allegedly used false claims about immigration aid and work authorisation to lure asylum-seekers onboard. (Mr DeSantis has denied making any false claims to migrants or coercing them.)
With immigration showing no signs of slowing, and governors Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott of Texas both facing re-election races, the controversial migrant transports are likely to continue.
“There’s also going to be buses, and there will likely be more flights,” Ms DeSantis said on Friday “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.”
Mr Abbott, whose “Operation Lone Star” has bused more than 10,000 migrants into liberal cities across the country, has also promised more of the same.
“Texas will continue sending migrants to sanctuary cities like Washington, DC until President Biden and Border Czar Harris step up and do their jobs to secure the border,” he said last week in a statement.
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