Florida's Charlie Crist says DOJ should intervene after Ron DeSantis' 'disgusting and vile move' sending migrants to Martha's Vineyard

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Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, left, authorized two planes to relocate migrants to Martha's Vineyard. His Democratic challenger, former Rep. Charlie Crist, called the actions
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, left, authorized two planes to relocate migrants to Martha's Vineyard. His Democratic challenger, former Rep. Charlie Crist, called the actions "disgusting and vile."Joe Raedle/Getty Images and Rebecca Blackwell/AP Photo
  • Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist criticized GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis for relocating migrants to Martha's Vineyard.

  • Crist said he would support the DOJ getting involved.

  • The Florida legislature allocated $12 million to transport migrants to other states.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist said he would support the Department of Justice getting involved after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, the Republican he's looking to unseat, used state funds to send Venezuelan migrants to Massachusetts.

DeSantis' office on Wednesday night took credit after 50 migrants arrived in two planes to Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, where a local church provided temporary housing. The controversial move is sure to complicate migrants' ability to attend their immigration court hearings.

Some attorneys took to Twitter to question whether DeSantis' actions were legal given that federal law prohibits transporting undocumented immigrants across state lines.

—Andrew Weissmann 🌻 (@AWeissmann_) September 15, 2022

Asked whether the Department of Justice should get involved during a virtual press conference on Thursday, Crist replied, "That sounds appropriate to me. Justice needs to be served here."

Related video: 46 migrants found dead inside tractor trailer in San Antonio

During a press conference in Niceville, Florida, DeSantis defended his actions as necessary "to protect the state of Florida from the impact of Biden's border policies."

DeSantis has slammed President Joe Biden repeatedly over his immigration policy. He has for months said that he would be relocating migrants to Biden's home state of Delaware or to Martha's Vineyard, and the Florida legislature allocated $12 million for the effort.

"Our message to them is that we are not a sanctuary state," he said Thursday. "It's better to be able to go to a sanctuary jurisdiction. And yes, we will help facilitate that transport for you to be able to go to greener pastures."

DeSantis was referring to so-called "sanctuary cities" that refuse to comply with federal immigration restrictions.

Rep. Charlie Crist, center, and his fiancé Chelsea Grimes, right, celebrate as he announces his running mate Karla Hernández-Mats, left, at Hialeah Middle School in Hialeah, Florida, on Saturday August 27, 2022.
Rep. Charlie Crist, center, and his fiancé Chelsea Grimes, right, celebrate as he announces his running mate Karla Hernández-Mats, left, at Hialeah Middle School in Hialeah, Florida, on Saturday August 27, 2022.Gaston De Cardenas/AP Photo

Crist compares DeSantis to Castro

Crist is the underdog vying to unseat DeSantis during the November 8 election. In his press conference, he told reporters that DeSantis was treating migrants "like they're in a socialist regime."

"Unfortunately, he's using human beings to try to make political points like he's already a dictator," Crist said, adding, "This is the kind of stuff Castro would do." Crist was referring to Fidel Castro, the former communist prime minister of Cuba.

"I'm very cautious, usually, about who I identify people with or compare them to, but I'm hearing from you know, Hispanic radio in South Florida, phrasing it and characterizing it in this way. And they're probably right on point."

Pressed by reporters, however, Crist repeatedly refused to say how he as governor would differ from DeSantis on immigration policy other than to say he would be "humane" and "do the opposite of what he's done."

"I wouldn't ship them around like they're animals, like they're cattle," he said. "I would not do that. Ron DeSantis is willing to do that. And that's the difference."

Crist also said he would have "kept them in Florida and treated them humanely and given them comfort and make sure they were fed and nourished and treated like human beings."

Several news outlets said the migrants originated in Texas before arriving to Martha's Vineyard, a wealthy island where former President Barack Obama owns a home.

GOP Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, who was DeSantis' predecessor in the governor's mansion, demurred when asked by Insider on Capitol Hill whether the governor's actions were appropriate.

"You'd have to ask governor DeSantis," he said.

Scott also said the federal government should finish building the wall on the US-Mexico border pushed by former President Trump, and enforce its asylum laws.

"I wish the Biden administration would secure the border," Scott said. "Basically the unsecure border has made the whole country less safe."

Florida isn't the first state to relocate migrants. Texas has sent 6,200 migrants to Chicago, New York City, and Washington, DC.

On Thursday morning, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas announced he sent two buses of migrants to Vice President Kamala Harris' residence after she made comments on NBC's Meet the Press saying the border was secure. Abbott has since April bused migrants to New York, Chicago, and Washington, DC.

"This morning, two Texas buses of migrants arrived at the Naval Observatory in DC. VP Harris claims our border is 'secure' & denies the crisis," Abbott, who is also up for reelection in November, wrote on Twitter. "We're sending migrants to her backyard to call on the Biden Administration to do its job & secure the border."

Republicans have slammed Biden's immigration policies, saying they're to blame for a surge in border crossings.

At his press conference Thursday, DeSantis said Biden should "do his damn job."

He accused states of "virtue signaling" through designating themselves sanctuary cities, saying that border towns have struggled to provide aid and that other communities across the US should be "sharing in the burdens."

"The minute even a small fraction of what those border towns deal with every day is brought to their front door, they all of a sudden go berserk," he said.

Crist, in his press conference, called DeSantis' actions "disgusting and vile" and said he was "on the wrong side of history." The actions, he said, underscore "why we need a change."

"If had a problem with any kind of policy of the Biden administration, he can voice it," Crist said. "He doesn't have to engage innocent human beings in this way, in an inhumane fashion, to try to make a political statement."

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