DeSantis appeals to the GOP base with the migrant movement, looking for re-election and 2024.

For months, DeSantis has been loudly plotting his plans to participate in redirecting Florida migrants across the border in a way that would maximize the heartburn of Democratic leaders. His administration secured $12 million in the state budget to pay for migrant relocation and has repeatedly threatened to use the money to send it to President Joe Biden’s home state of Delaware, among other liberal strongholds.

However, as the maneuver unfolded in real time — with horrifying images of about 50 people, some fleeing a brutal dictatorship in South America, who wandered unprepared for their arrival in an unknown vacation spot in the Northeast — Florida and Massachusetts those who remain to face the fallen through and struck down. And it served to alert the country that the reach of DeSantis, the Republican leader who is considering a 2024 presidential campaign, already extends beyond his state’s borders.

“All these people in D.C. and New York were beating their chests when (Donald) Trump was president, saying they were very proud to be a sanctuary jurisdiction, saying how bad it was to have a secure border,” DeSantis said at a news conference Thursday. in the morning. “The moment these border towns bring even a small fraction of what they deal with on a daily basis to their doorstep, they suddenly go crazy.”

“It just goes to show you … their virtue signaling is a sham,” said DeSantis, who is running for a second term in November.

In Massachusetts, where local officials scrambled to accommodate the migrants, Democratic leaders accused the Republican governor of orchestrating a political venture with human life.

“Think of the governor of Florida, one of the largest states in the nation, spending his time concocting a secret plot to send 50 immigrants here, families, some of them children as young as four, and use them as political pawns. He can go into Tucker Carlson and beat his chest about how tough he is on immigration. “, Massachusetts state representative Dylan Fernandes, a Democrat, said on CNN Thursday morning.

“It’s cowardly, and the real story is the island community that has come together to support and support these people, who represent the best of what America has to offer.”

In Florida, Democratic Party Chairman Manny Diaz called it a “new low” for the Florida governor. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist said, “All Ron DeSantis is doing is scoring political points with his hard-right base in a veiled attempt to run for president, but Floridians are paying the price.”

It’s not the first time DeSantis has waded into the country’s immigration debate in a way that has maximized the Republican governor’s exposure while costing taxpayers. In June of last year, DeSantis sent law enforcement to the southern border, insisting he was “responding” to requests for government help. Greg Abbott of Texas and Doug Ducey of Arizona. A month later, DeSantis visited the border for a press conference with Abbott, which he likened to a fundraiser for his supporters.

Those actions earned DeSantis high praise from conservative commentators and did little to hurt his political standing in his home state, where one in five residents identify as Hispanic or Latino. It remains to be seen whether immigrants and Spanish-speaking communities will respond negatively to DeSantis sending migrants who were processed legally at the border 2,000 miles to Massachusetts.

Many on the planes to Martha’s Vineyard said their country of origin was Venezuela, where millions have fled the oppressive regime of Nicolás Maduro. More than half of the country’s Venezuelans are in Florida, according to a 2020 Migration Policy Institute report, with 109,000 in the Miami metropolitan area alone. Political observers in Florida point out that the Venezuelan community is gaining more political power in a state that is often won on the margins.

“We are here today to tell the governor that there are no Hispanics, no immigrants, but in this case we, Venezuelans, are not the pieces of his political board game to grab headlines and score political points in his quest to be the Republican candidate for the 2024 Presidential Election,” said Adelys Ferro, Venezuelan The director of the American Caucus, at a press conference in South Florida on Thursday.

It’s clear whether DeSantis and Abbott are coordinating, or competing, efforts on the border. Abbott has moved thousands of immigrants to Democratic cities in recent weeks. The day after the two planes landed on Martha’s Vineyard, Texas buses dropped the migrants off at the Naval Observatory in Washington, DC, where Vice President Kamala Harris lives.

Like DeSantis, Abbott is running for re-election this year and is also a contender for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. He didn’t let them cross into the US first.

“What they should do, Texas, should be sending them back over the border,” DeSantis said in June. “You know, who cares what the feds say they’re not doing their job. Or don’t let them cross the border to begin with, because they cross the river. They go straight through. Nobody stops. So you You know, I think some backtracking would be good.”

DeSantis has also recruited more Republicans to join his tough approach to border migration. In a speech last month in Arizona, where he campaigned for Kari Lake, the Republican gubernatorial candidate there, DeSantis announced more collaboration if elected.

“What I told Kari Lake, I said, ‘Look, if you’re willing to put people on that border and start, I’m going to send the National Guard to help with that,'” DeSantis said.

CNN’s Alta Spells and Melissa Alonso contributed to this report.