Washington (AFP) -
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis took credit Thursday for sending two planeloads of undocumented Venezuelans to wealthy Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, as Republicans play up immigration issues before November mid-term elections.
Around 50 of the migrants, including children, landed Wednesday on the island, where Democratic presidents from John F. Kennedy to Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have summered.
According to Dylan Fernandes, a local state legislator, they were flown on chartered flights.
On Thursday two buses reportedly also from Texas deposited dozens of migrants in front of the Washington residence of Vice President Kamala Harris, the latest of such moves by Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott.
'Immigrants are being dropped off on Martha's Vineyard by chartered flights from Texas. Many don't know where they are. They say they were told they would be given housing and jobs,' Fernandes wrote on Twitter.
'Republicans who call themselves Christians have been plotting for some time to use human lives -- men, women, and children -- as a political pawns. It is evil and inhumane,' he said.
- Anti-immigration politics -
The moves came as DeSantis and Abbott, two of the country's most prominent and combative Republican governors, have sought to highlight the issue of tens of thousands of migrants trying to cross the southern border into the United States each month.
Abbott, whose state is the first destination for most of the migrants crossing from Mexico, has been sending buses of them northward, mainly to Washington, Chicago and New York, since April.
Most of the migrants have been permitted to stay in the country by border officials after officially requesting asylum.
Some 10,000 have been bused across the country by Texas, and Abbott says the action is to provide relief to border communities.
The Texas governor, who is seeking relection in November, said Thursday that Vice President Harris claims the border is secure and denies the existence of an immigration crisis.
'We're sending migrants to her backyard to call on the Biden administration to do its job & secure the border,' he tweeted.
DeSantis has supported Abbott, and his aides said he was behind the flight to Martha's Vineyard.
While his state is not on the southwest border, it is a destination for many migrants entering the country legally and illegally.
DeSantis is also seeking reelection in the November midterm vote, and is also a top contender to run for president under the Republican banner in 2024.
'We are not a sanctuary state. . . We will help facilitate that transport for you to be able to go to greener pastures,' DeSantis said at an official event in Florida Thursday.
'In Florida, we take what is happening at the southern border seriously.'
Charlie Crist, the Democrat challenging DeSantis for the Florida governorship, said sending the migrants to Martha's Vineyard was a wholly political move.
'Florida is spending $12 million to fly innocent migrant children out of our state when that money could be spent on fighting to help Floridians and lower costs,' Crist said on Twitter.
'Everything Ron DeSantis does is to score political points and feed red meat to his base in his thinly veiled attempt to run for president.'