Immigration groups on high alert as they await DeSantis’ next flight

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis’ refusal to give advance notice before flying migrants to cities is causing chaos among immigrant groups and states trying to anticipate where his next flight will land.

Without a heads up, they are left scrambling — with just hours to help migrants find shelter, food and legal guidance. When DeSantis sent asylum seekers to Martha’s Vineyard with little notice, residents were forced to rely on Spanish-speaking high school students to translate and dozens of migrants spent the night in a church, the best shelter available at the time.

Even the White House this week was rushing to coordinate with Delaware officials after a flight was expected to land in President Joe Biden’s home state. Texas GOP Gov. Greg Abbott had previously send several busloads of migrants to Vice President Kamala Harris’ residence at the Naval Observatory.

Many of those relief groups are now collaborating and preparing for the next plane of migrants, which DeSantis has promised to send. They’ve built upon pre-existing informal networks of immigration, legal and advocacy organizations throughout the U.S. to rapidly deploy services once they get news of the next flight.

“There has been the creation of this sort of national infrastructure so there can be help waiting, whether they are coming to the south or going to cities across the country,” Luis Mata, the Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition’s policy director, said during an interview.

On Tuesday, humanitarian and aid organizations — as well as the White House and state officials — hurriedly organize services after a flight from Texas was scheduled to land near Rehoboth, the summer vacation spot on the Delaware coast where President Joe Biden has a home and regularly visits. The flight was eventually re-routed to Nashville, Tennessee and then to a small airport in Teterboro, New Jersey but apparently wasn’t transporting migrants.

“Staff communicated with friends and colleagues in New Jersey to give them information that they could be headed your way and to get ready,” Mata, who is based in Tennessee, said.

The national network of groups offering resources for migrants has long been in place. But they have bulked up recently after DeSantis’ Martha’s Vineyard stunt and as Texas GOP Gov. Greg Abbott continues to bus thousands of migrants from the southern border to cities like NYC and Washington. Both DeSantis and Abbott are running for reelection this year. Democrats, including California Gov. Gavin Newsom, have pressed the Justice Department to investigate DeSantis over the flights and a sheriff in Texas also said he opened a probe into the Florida governor.

The move by these groups to strengthen coordination and increase services speaks to the confusion and disorder DeSantis and Abbott’s migrant transports are causing. Chicago, NYC and Washington, D.C. are struggling to handle the influx of migrants flowing into their cities.

But DeSantis isn’t backing down. During a press conference in Miami on Thursday, the Florida governor denied he would …read more