Delaware braces for migrant flight amid US political stalemate

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GEORGETOWN, Delaware, September 20 (Reuters) – Local government officials, lawyers and journalists swarmed a small coastal airport near President Joe Biden’s vacation home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware on Tuesday ahead of a possible flight carrying migrants from Texas.

Flight tracking websites showed a scheduled flight slated to leave San Antonio, Texas, bound for Georgetown, Delaware, chartered on Tuesday by the same company that was used by Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to send migrants to the wealthy island of Martha’s Vineyard last week.

But later that day, flight trackers showed the plane was no longer headed for San Antonio or Georgetown, and instead headed for Nashville. It was unclear what caused the route change or whether there were any migrants on board.

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DeSantis previously took credit for a pair of planes that dropped nearly 50 migrants, mostly from Venezuela, on the Massachusetts island without warning and said he planned further action. But on Tuesday, he would not confirm any information about a possible flight to Delaware.

Asked at the White House about his reaction to the possibility of DeSantis sending migrants near his Delaware beach house, Biden – a Democrat – told reporters that the governor of Florida “should come and visit us. We have a nice littoral”. The White House said it would work with state and local authorities to help the migrants if they arrived, while condemning the incident as a “political stunt”.

DeSantis, who is up for reelection in November and considered a potential presidential candidate in 2024, has joined Republican governors in Texas and Arizona in sending migrants to Democratic-controlled cities in a bid to criticize the Biden administration’s management of the United States. Mexico border where there were a record number of crossings. Read more

“I think it opens people’s eyes to the solution, which is to have a secure border,” DeSantis said at a press conference on Tuesday.

Texas, which has sent more than 11,000 migrants to Washington DC, New York and Chicago since April, has stepped up its campaign in recent days, dropping off migrants near the official residence of Vice President Kamala Harris in Washington.

The stampede in Delaware came just a day after the San Antonio County Sheriff opened a criminal investigation into the thefts to Martha’s Vineyard. Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar said Monday that 48 migrants were “lured under false pretenses” to the island for “a photo op.” The migrants said they were recruited from the streets of San Antonio by a woman named Perla and promised jobs and housing, but received no indication that they were heading for a small island. Read more

Lawyers representing the migrants said on Tuesday they filed a class action lawsuit against Florida for the thefts in federal court in Massachusetts.

In the town of Georgetown of 7,000 people on Tuesday, patrons of the airport restaurant weighed in on Republican efforts to ship migrants across the country.

Wyatt Wiggins, a 40-year-old co-owner of a local business that rents construction equipment, said he supports former President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, including the effort to build a wall between the United States and Mexico, but opposes flying migrants to send a political message.

“Using people as pawns to get a political message across is not a very good representation of our country,” he said.

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Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt and Andrea Shalal in Washington and Ted Hesson in Georgetown; Additional reporting by Jason Buch in Madison, Kristina Cooke in San Francisco, Rajesh Kumar Singh in Chicago; Editing by Mica Rosenberg and Aurora Ellis

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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