On September 14th, approximately 50 migrants landed on the Massachusetts island Martha’s Vineyard. Two days later, nearly all of them left for a military base on the mainland. Most of the migrants were from Venezuela, although some were from other Latin American countries.
Anyone wondering how they ended up so far north so quickly should look no further than Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. DeSantis was responsible for the flights across the country which began in San Antonio, Texas. His motives are unknown, although many have speculated on his intentions. Dr. Joshua Bowman, a professor of Political Science at Hope College who teaches many classes on American Politics, says that “It is obviously a political stunt. This isn’t just procedure, this is all politics.” The sentiment has been echoed by pundits and congress members alike, with people across the left-right divide condemning his actions.
There are two main speculations behind the flights. First, DeSantis may be trying to frame himself as the de facto leader of the Republican party and a possible candidate for the presidential nomination. By making national news and collaborating with other prominent political figures like Greg Abbott, the governor of Texas, DeSantis shows himself to be a competent policy leader. The second motivation is hazier. It is thought that he may be using this to refocus the national attention. According to Saul Anuzis, managing partner of Coast to Coast Strategies, LLC, a political consulting firm, “Democrats are desperately trying to make abortion, Trump, and 2024 the issue, the challenge is that the other issues are real and affect folks daily.” The problem for Republican leaders is that the Democrat’s strategies have been working. According to Insider, “Since August, Democrats have been feeling more optimistic about their forthcoming chances in the November midterms thanks to legislative wins in Congress, decreasing gas prices, and the threat of a GOP push for a nationwide abortion ban. They’ve also been able to keep the spotlight on former President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly teased a 2024 White House run, is the subject of an FBI investigation over classified documents and faces a $250 million fraud lawsuit.”
Another possible motivation for the flights could be much less formal. DeSantis may be shipping migrants across the country in order to give upper-class liberals a “taste of their own medicine.” This likely plays at least some role in the location and timing of the flights. Martha’s Vineyard is a wealthy, white, isolated and, most importantly, liberal neighborhood. If the residents were to reject the migrants then it would show them to be hypocritical in their beliefs. This continues a trend within right-wing politics of “owning the libs” in order to drum up support for a cause or politician. Dr. Bowman talks about this as well, saying that “It is remarkably unethical to lie to these individuals, put them on planes and buses, and dump them somewhere,” calling it “human trafficking for politics.”