(CNN) — Delaware officials and volunteers began preparations Tuesday after reports and flight schedules suggested a chartered aircraft Bringing migrants to Martha’s Vineyard last week was bringing a group of migrants from Texas to the President’s home state.
However, as of Tuesday afternoon, there was no sign of such a flight, and the plane bound for Kelly Field in San Antonio had not even arrived at the departure airport.
Jill Fredel, communications director for the Delaware Department of Health and Human Services, said in a Tuesday news briefing that they currently have no reports of migrants arriving. She said the governor’s office has not received any contacts from Florida or Texas, but noted the state is making preparations just in case.
“We are here to support people who may be arriving and stand ready to offer them the services and support they need,” Fredel said. “It’s a humanitarian effort on our part. We want to support people who could arrive in our state.”
Emily David Hershman, a spokeswoman for Delaware Gov. John Carney, said they were aware of the reports and were working to prepare should migrants arrive unannounced.
“We are coordinating with federal officials and stand ready to receive these families in an orderly manner as they pursue their asylum claims,” she said.
The preparations came after that Flight tracking sites showed overnight a flight plan filed with a commercial planner and the Federal Aviation Administration that included one of the Ultimate Jet charter aircraft used on the Martha Vineyard flights that resembled this flight. The pages listed a route from Kelly Field in San Antonio to a brief stopover in Crestview, Florida and on to Georgetown, Delaware.
Sheriff Javier Salazar of Bexar County, which includes San Antonio, said he was told to expect another flight Tuesday, but plans have been changed.
“We had word this morning that a flight was arriving in San Antonio and departing for Delaware with a planeload of migrants,” he told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota on Tuesday, “but to my knowledge we received last-minute news that the flight has been postponed.”
Last week a group of nearly 50 migrants, most of them from Venezuela, were flown from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, under arrangements by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. The migrants spent 44 hours on the island and have since been transferred to Joint Base Cape Cod.
DeSantis, a Republican running for re-election this year, said he wanted to draw attention to it Refugee crisis at the US-Mexico border and to criticize the Biden administration’s immigration policies. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, another Republican running for re-election, has similarly sent thousands of migrants on buses to New York and Washington, DC, both Democrat-run, throughout the summer.
“You can come visit us,” says Biden
CNN saw volunteers arrive at Delaware Coastal Airport in Georgetown, though plans remained unclear.
Volunteers, city and state officials began descending at the regional airport around noon, waiting for news of when flights might be arriving.
Senator Chris Coons, the Delaware Democrat, told CNN he has been on the phone — including “for much of last night” — with community leaders “to make sure we’re providing an appropriate, welcoming and supportive reception in Delaware,” if that’s the case Should this be the case, migrants are sent to their state.
“Put simply, what a cruel stunt for a group of people seeking asylum. ‘There will be jobs and homes on both sides of this plane, get on that plane,'” Coons said. “And then they get off the plane and they’re like, ‘No. You are 1,000 miles away from where you will hear.’”
Earlier, a DHS official told CNN that the agency had contacted the state of Delaware and given them general guidance and reached out to nongovernmental organizations in the area should there be a flight Tuesday.
White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said the White House had coordinated with Delaware officials but declined to say how they received the news that a plane carrying migrants could be flying to Delaware.
“I can tell you that our warnings didn’t come from Governor DeSantis because his sole purpose is to create chaos and use immigrants fleeing Communism as political pawns,” she said. “So it’s about doing political theatre.”
For his part, President Joe Biden offered a brief response to the report of a possible migrant flight to his home state.
“You can come visit us,” he said. “We have a beautiful coast.”
DeSantis has repeatedly suggested sending migrants to Delaware
Over the past nine months, DeSantis has repeatedly suggested that Delaware would be a potential landing point for migrants being transported through Florida’s new resettlement program — teasing the president’s home state more than any other Democratic destination, often to massive applause from Republican audiences.
DeSantis first made the threat as a warning to the federal government not to process large groups of migrants at the Florida border. At the Conservative Political Action Conference in February, DeSantis told the crowd, “If Biden dumps illegal aliens off the southern border into Florida, I’ll redirect them to Delaware.”
When that didn’t happen, DeSantis launched the idea of transporting migrants with federal dollars right from the border to Biden’s doorstep.
“They don’t like it when the Red States send illegal aliens into their communities,” DeSantis said at a rally in Pittsburgh last month for GOP candidates there. “We’re happy to help if we can, including shipping not just to New York and DC, you need to ship to Delaware as well.”
At an independent news conference Tuesday afternoon, DeSantis said “I cannot confirm the reports of a flight to Delaware,” but defended the Martha’s Vineyard flights as helpful to the migrants involved.
“They were hungry, homeless, they had no chance at all,” DeSantis said. “They have been given the opportunity to be in what is perhaps the finest sanctuary in the world. And apparently the people of Martha’s Vineyard are supposed to have dumped her the next day. They could have taken it. They decided against it.”
In fact, Martha’s Vineyard and Massachusetts state officials coordinated with the military to relocate the migrants to Joint Base Cape Cod.
The flights to Martha’s Vineyard have come under fire from the White House, Democratic officials and immigration attorneys, who say the migrants were misled about their ultimate destination and used in a political stunt. Lawyers for many of the migrants said Monday that brochures are given to their customers were “highly misleading” and “were used to trick (their) customers into traveling under the pretense that (relocation) assistance was available to them”.
That’s what Sheriff Salazar, a Democrat, said Monday night His agency will launch an investigation into the Martha’s Vineyard flights and said he believed they had been “taken advantage of and duped”.
Still, DeSantis defended his actions on Fox News Monday night, noting that Martha’s Vineyard was a “sanctuary jurisdiction‘, a term for locations with policies aimed at restricting cooperation with or involvement in federal immigration enforcement activities.
“They signed all the consent forms to go, and then the provider that does this for Florida gave them a package with a map of Martha’s Vineyard and the numbers for various services on Martha’s Vineyard,” DeSantis said. “Why wouldn’t they want to leave, considering where they’ve been? They were in really, really bad shape and they needed to be cleaned, everything, treated well.”
US Customs and Border Protection Encounters along the US-Mexico border have already passed the 2 million mark Migration from countries like Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba has pushed the numbers higher so far this fiscal year, according to agency data.
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