Ron DeSantis, the Republican governor of Florida, sent two planeloads of illegal immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard, the affluent Massachusetts island which is home to Barack Obama and a host of celebrities.
It was an escalation of a concerted effort by Republican state governors to highlight record numbers of crossings at the US-Mexico border under Joe Biden’s administration.
Separately, Greg Abbott, the Republican governor of Texas, had two bus loads of illegal immigrants driven to Washington where they were dropped off outside the official residence of Kamala Harris, the vice-president, which is next to the British embassy.
Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, accused Republican governors of using migrants as “political pawns” in a “shameful” manner.
She said: “It is a political stunt. It is a cruel, inhumane way of treating people who are fleeing communism. We’re talking about children, we’re talking about families.
“Governor Ron DeSantis sent a hired videographer on the plane to Massachusetts to capture footage of them being dropped off. Remember, there were children on this plane. It is a political play. It’s cruel.”
White House not given notice
The White House was given no advance notice of migrants being dropped at the vice-president’s residence, but Fox News was, she said.
Mr Obama took seven summer holidays on Martha’s Vineyard and in 2019 spent $12 million on a 29-acre estate.
The nearby former home of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis recently sold for $27 million.
Celebrities who live, or have lived on the island, south of Cape Cod, include Meg Ryan, Bill Murray and Larry David.
It is a popular summer holiday destination for entertainment figures, including Oprah Winfrey, and has a year-round population of about 20,000.
A spokeswoman for Mr DeSantis, who is widely considered a potential Republican presidential nominee in 2024, said the two planes were chartered using some of the $12 million Florida has set aside to transport illegal immigrants out of the state.
She said: “States like Massachusetts, New York, and California will better facilitate the care of these individuals, who they have invited into our country by incentivising illegal immigration through their designation as ‘sanctuary states’ and support for the Biden administration’s open border policies.”
Another spokeswoman for Mr DeSantis added: “Martha’s Vineyard residents should be thrilled about this. They vote for sanctuary cities – they get a sanctuary city of their own.
“And illegal aliens will increase the town’s diversity, which is strength. Right?”
The roughly 50 migrants, including some children, were seen arriving at the island’s airport and being put in vans.
They were later observed sitting on the pavement outside St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in the picturesque setting of Edgartown.
Several migrants told NPR they voluntarily agreed to board a plane in San Antonio, Texas and it went via Florida.
They said they had been told they were going to Boston, Massachusetts.