Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Thursday announced he had sent two busloads of migrants to the Washington, DC residence of Vice President Kamala Harris in a show of frustration over the state of US immigration policy.
The move comes a day after Florida Governor Ron DeSantis sent two charter jets full of migrants to Martha’s Vineyard, a popular vacation destination off the coast of Massachusetts.
Both governors cited frustration with the immigration policies of US President Joe Biden and said they were targeting sanctuary jurisdictions — states, counties, and cities offering various forms of respite from US immigration law enforcement — in planning the exoduses from their own states.
Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) reported surging numbers of encounters along the southwestern border in recent months, with total encounters between October 2021 and July 2022 reaching nearly two million, as compared with 1.8 million for the entire 2021 fiscal year, and just over 450,000 during the 2020 fiscal year. Abbott has lambasted the federal government for what he sees as its inactivity in the face of a crisis.
Harris was tapped in March to spearhead the country’s response to a growing migrant crisis along the southern border, prompting Abbott to target her as he railed against the Biden Administration:
The Biden-Harris Administration continues ignoring and denying the historic crisis at our southern border, which has endangered and overwhelmed Texas communities for almost two years. … 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.
According to Abbott’s statement, the decision to send the busloads of migrants to Washington aligns with the state’s ongoing response to Biden’s “reckless border policies,” which Abbott says are overwhelming the state’s southern communities.
This was only the latest in a series of similar episodes that since April have transported upwards of 10,000 migrants from Texas to Washington DC, New York City, and Chicago — all of which have claimed the status of sanctuary jurisdictions.
As there is no cohesive legal definition of “sanctuary” in this context, sanctuary policies can take a broad range of forms, from restricting state and local officers from detaining or arresting individuals over immigration violations, to preventing federal immigration enforcement officials from entering state and local detention facilities, according to the American Immigration Council. Despite their amorphous nature, sanctuary policies have featured with increasing prominence in political squabbles regarding US immigration policy.
DeSantis emphasized Massachusetts’ sanctuary jurisdiction status in explaining his decision to send two unannounced charter flights full of migrants to Martha’s Vineyard on Wednesday. “We are not a sanctuary state. And it’s better to be able to go to a sanctuary jurisdiction. And yes, we will help facilitate that transport for you to be able to go to greener pastures,” DeSantis said to a crowd of supporters in Florida, footage of which was then posted to his official Twitter account.
He went on to accuse sanctuary jurisdictions of hypocrisy, stating:
Those people in DC in New York were beating their chests when Trump was president saying they were so proud to be sanctuary jurisdictions saying how bad it was to have a secure border. The minute even a small fraction of what those border towns deal with every day is brought to their front door. They all of a sudden, go berserk and they’re so upset that this is happening, and it just shows you you know, their virtue signaling is a fraud.
Martha’s Vineyard authorities and advocacy groups worked quickly to provide the new arrivals with water, food, and shelter. Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker lauded community efforts to support the group, many of whom reportedly didn’t know where they were when they landed. In a statement, Baker said:
I thank everyone on the ground who quickly came together to provide assistance on [Martha’s] Vineyard. The Commonwealth has many resources for assisting individuals that arrive in Massachusetts with varying immigration statuses and needs and is working with all partners involved to make sure those resources are available to the migrants that arrived last night.
Meanwhile, Senator Ed Markey wrote via Twitter:
[DeSantis] Could learn a lesson from Massachusetts on what patriotism and liberty really look like if he weren’t so busy using humans as props in a cruel stunt to buoy his pathetic political aspirations. To those who’ve just landed: we gladly embrace you.