BOSTON (SHNS) – Gov. Charlie Baker tentatively weighed in Monday on the way his Republican gubernatorial counterpart Ron DeSantis directed about 50 Venezuelan asylum-seekers to be flown to and left on Martha’s Vineyard earlier this month, saying the topic has become “obviously a presidential debate” rather than an earnest effort to address immigration.
“Just watching the way this has played out at the national level, I’ve been watching Republicans and Democrats that are running for president tee off on each other. That doesn’t help solve the problem, OK? I mean, I know it helps everybody deal with their base and all the rest, but what we really need is immigration reform in this country and I’ve been saying this for over 10 years,” Baker said Monday on GBH’s “Boston Public Radio.” “It means that both Republicans and Democrats would have to compromise and they would probably lose some edge that they might currently have with this issue. But the vast majority of the country would like to have this issue dealt with and I think the way it’s being dealt with now gets us nowhere.”
DeSantis, the Republican governor of Florida who is viewed as a possible presidential candidate in 2024, organized two charter planes to take asylum-seekers from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard with no advance notice. DeSantis’ office said the migrant flights were part of its office’s “relocation program to transport illegal immigrants to sanctuary destinations.”
Co-host Jim Braude pressed Baker to comment on DeSantis and “this total BS” of DeSantis claiming that the migrants were “deported” from Martha’s Vineyard when Baker’s administration arranged for appropriate temporary housing at Joint Base Cape Cod.
Baker said he saw no point in sharing his opinion. “I’m not running for president, so why engage in what is obviously a presidential debate, OK,” Baker said. But the governor did offer more of his own thoughts on immigration policy, telling Braude that “Canada, many other countries that we consider to be sort of moderates on this issue have figured it out. There’s no reason why we can’t if we want to.”
The governor also pointed out to Braude and co-host Margery Eagan that it is not uncommon for migrants or asylum-seekers to arrive in Massachusetts looking for assistance with housing, employment and more. “This one generated a lot of attention because of the way it happened, but it’s not unusual for a lot of the nonprofits that we work with and that the federal government works with and a lot of the community-based organizations that work with immigrants — mostly seeking asylum or refugees — I mean, obviously, we’ve been working with folks from Ukraine and folks from Afghanistan and folks from Haiti and a number of other places,” Baker said. “You know, it happens fairly regularly.”