NICEVILLE, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday demanded President Joe Biden "do his damn job and secure the border," just hours after the governor flew two planes carrying dozens of migrants to Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts.
The bold move was aimed at drawing attention to what DeSantis called the Biden Administration's failed border policies.
"One of the reasons why we want to transport because, obviously, it's expensive if people are coming here. It taxes social services and all these other things," DeSantis said during a news conference in Niceville. "If we can do a sanctuary, then the chance that they come to Florida goes down dramatically."
In Florida, we take what is happening at the southern border seriously.— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) September 15, 2022
We are not a sanctuary state, and we will gladly facilitate the transport of illegal immigrants to sanctuary jurisdictions. pic.twitter.com/YeEbMzy8yG
According to Taryn Fenske, DeSantis' communications director, the flights "were part of the state's relocation program to transport illegal immigrants to sanctuary destinations."
Fenske added the Florida Legislature allocated $12 million for a program "to facilitate the transport of unauthorized aliens from this state," consistent with federal law.
In sending the migrants to Martha's Vineyard, DeSantis borrowed a tactic from Republican governors in Texas and Arizona, moving migrants to other states to protest the Biden Administration's border policies.
"Every community in America should be sharing in the burdens. It shouldn't all fall on a handful of red states," DeSantis said. "They have to decide, OK, this is a policy you've supported to have an open border. You don't like it as much."
While DeSantis' office didn't confirm the legal status of the migrants, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist said the group consisted of "50 Venezuelan and Colombian immigrants," adding that it was a "disgusting and vile move" that puts DeSantis on the "wrong side of history."
"When you are this inhumane in how you treat human beings, you're not qualified to be governor of anything," Crist said. "It's amazing to me what he's willing to do for sheer political gain, and to use people in this horrific way."
WATCH: Charlie Crist discusses migrants sent to Martha's Vineyard
The governor’s office has yet to confirm the specifics of the flights, but online records show at least two air routes that could fit the timeline.
Both originated in San Antonio, destined for Crestview, Florida. They then continued on, eventually reaching Massachusetts Wednesday afternoon.
Officials in Martha’s Vineyard said they were caught completely off guard by the arrivals. State lawmakers there posted that the community scrambled to provide migrants— some of them children— shelter and food.
Many migrants who cross the border illegally from Mexico are temporarily shielded from deportation after being freed by U.S. authorities to pursue asylum in immigration court — as allowed under U.S law and international treaty — or released on humanitarian parole.
"Even people across the border, there's a lot that say they want to come to Florida," DeSantis said Thursday. "Our message is, we're not a sanctuary state. We don't have benefits or any of that. There are some sanctuary jurisdictions, and that would be better. Now what would be the best is for Biden to do his damn job and secure the border."
Gov. Charlie Baker, R-Massachusetts, said he was in touch with local officials and that short-term shelter was being provided to the migrants.
In a tweet, State Rep. Dylan Fernandes, who represents Martha's Vineyard, said "Our island jumped into action putting together 50 beds, giving everyone a good meal, providing a play area for the children, making sure people have the healthcare and support they need. We are a community that comes together to support immigrants."
Our island jumped into action putting together 50 beds, giving everyone a good meal, providing a play area for the children, making sure people have the healthcare and support they need. We are a community that comes together to support immigrants. pic.twitter.com/kG5bglhbLe— Dylan Fernandes (@RepDylan) September 15, 2022
In a virtual news conference Thursday, Crist said the move distracts from the main issue of the Nov. 8 election, which is abortion rights.
"It's so cold and so callous and so inhumane. It's unconscionable," Crist said. "If he had a problem with any kind of policy of the Biden Administration, he can voice it. He doesn't have to engage innocent human beings in this way, in an inhumane fashion, to try to make a political statement."
Crist added that if he were governor, he "wouldn't ship them around like they're animals."
"I would have kept them in Florida and treated them humanely and given them comfort. Make sure they were fed and nourished and treated like human beings. I would do the opposite of what he's done," Crist said.
During a small business event in Delray Beach on Thursday, Crist's runningmate, lieutenant governor candidate Karla Hernandez, called DeSantis' move a "political stunt" that wasted taxpayer money.
"He put $12 million as a line item for deporting immigrants this session," Hernandez said. "How much good could that be for the community?"
WATCH: Karla Hernandez discusses migrants sent to Martha's Vineyard
Since April, Texas bused more than 7,000 migrants to Washington, D.C., which declared a public emergency last week, as well as thousands to New York and Chicago.
Martha's Vineyard is home to about 15,000 people and is far less prepared than New York or Washington for large influxes of migrants.
The move is likely to delight DeSantis' supporters who deride Democrat-led, immigrant-friendly "sanctuary" cities and anger critics who said he is weaponizing migrants as pawns for political gain.