Why Republican governors are relocating migrants across US

For months, the Republican governor of Texas has been sending asylum seekers on buses to Democratic-run states – without prior warning or coordination – to draw attention to the rising number of migrants crossing into the United States through its border with Mexico.

Arizona followed soon after, and more recently, the governor of Florida has joined the effort by sending some 50 migrants from Texas on planes to a wealthy island in Massachusetts. Officials say the migrants were promised jobs and financial assistance when there were none.

The Republican governors blame President Joe Biden’s immigration policies for the rise in arrivals at the border and say their campaign is necessary in order to share the burden of hosting the asylum seekers.

But with midterm elections coming up in November, migrant advocates say the move is a cruel political stunt to gain votes.

How many people have been bussed or flown across the US?

So far, more than 13,000 migrants have been affected by the Republican legislators’ campaign.

Texas says it has bussed more than 8,000 migrants to Washington, DC, and another 2,500 more to New York City since April. More than 600 migrants from Texas also have been sent to Chicago since late August, the state said.

Arizona has bussed 2,000 migrants to the nation’s capital, according to local media reports.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis also took credit for flying approximately 50 migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard earlier this month.

How do the Republican legislators justify their campaign?

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has said the Biden administration is to blame for the growing number of migrants crossing the US-Mexico border, and that northern, Democratic-run states should share the burden of hosting them.

Texas, which borders Mexico, is often the first state asylum seekers land in.

“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,” Abbott said in a statement on September 15.

How are people being moved across the US?

Abbott and Arizona Governor Doug Ducey have been sending buses to transport the migrants and asylum seekers in more than 30-hour journeys to other parts of the country.

The campaign intensified this month, however, when Florida’s DeSantis put migrants on private planes to Martha’s Vineyard.

That has raised questions about the legality of these transfers of migrants, as US media have reported that the people sent to Massachusetts – most of whom were from Venezuela – were recruited by another migrant in Texas and misled into believing that upon reaching the island they would be given housing, work and other assistance.

So is this legal?

It remains unclear if any US or international laws were broken, but the effort is already being challenged in court.

Earlier this week, a county sheriff in Texas announced that he had opened a criminal investigation into the migrant flights to Martha’s Vineyard. Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar told reporters that the 48 migrants were “lured under false pretences” and “stranded unceremoniously in Martha’s Vineyard … for nothing other than a photo op”.

The following day, Alianza Americas, a coalition of 53 migrant-led organisations, and three migrants who were flown to Massachusetts filed a class action lawsuit against DeSantis and other Florida state officials for what they said was a “premeditated, fraudulent, and illegal scheme” that was aimed at “advancing their own personal, financial and political interests”.

But DeSantis has defended the flights. “Immigrants have been more than willing to leave Bexar County after being abandoned, homeless, and ‘left to fend for themselves.’ Florida gave them an opportunity to seek greener pastures in a sanctuary jurisdiction that offered greater resources for them, as we expected,” his office said in a statement.

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