Florida flies dozens of migrants to Martha's Vineyard

About 50 migrants arrived by plane in Martha's Vineyard, Mass., Wednesday on a flight paid for by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and that originated in San Antonio, Texas.

The migrants touched down at about 3:15 p.m. local time. Later Wednesday, a spokesperson for DeSantis sent a statement to NPR and other news outlets confirming that the migrants were transported by Florida under a state program that was funded by the legislature earlier this year.

The statement reads in part: "States like Massachusetts, New York and California will better facilitate the care of these individuals who they have invited into our country by incentivizing illegal immigration."

The Florida statement refers to two planes, but local officials at Martha's Vineyard say there was only one.

However, a number of migrants told NPR their flight originated in San Antonio, and that they were being transported to Boston.

NPR confirmed that a plane originated in San Antonio, made a stop in Florida and then another stop in South Carolina before flying on to Martha's Vineyard. But apart from that layover, the migrants NPR interviewed had not spent time in Florida. 

The migrants said a woman they identified as "Perla" approached them outside the shelter and lured them into boarding the plane, saying they would be flown to Boston where they could get expedited work papers.

She provided them with food. The migrants said Perla was still trying to recruit more passengers just hours before their flight.

In Martha's Vineyard, the migrants are staying at a church shelter while local authorities and nonprofit organizations figure out what's going to happen next. 

Lisa Del Castro, who runs a homeless shelter on the island, said resources were initially scarce.

The Wednesday flight extends a tactic by Republican politicians in primarily southern states have used to send migrants to Democrat-controlled cities in the north.

Republican leaders have used this step to protest the rise in illegal immigration during President Biden's time in office, and the issue figures to be prominent in November's midterm elections.

Democrats and immigrant advocates say those governors are essentially using migrants as political pawns. But the governors say are simply calling attention to a very real problem.

The U.S. Border Patrol is on pace to record 2 million apprehensions in a fiscal year for the first time ever.