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Baker declines to criticize DeSantis over migrant flights, saying he has no interest in ‘presidential debate’

Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida.Alicia Devine/Associated Press

Governor Charlie Baker on Monday declined to directly criticize his Florida counterpart, Governor Ron DeSantis, for his decision to fly roughly 50 migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard earlier this month, saying he has no interest in joining “Republicans and Democrats that are running for president tee off on each other.”

“I’m not running for president, so why engage in what is obviously a presidential debate?” Baker said during an appearance on GBH’s “Boston Public Radio.”

Baker, a second-term Republican who is not running for reelection, has routinely sworn off interest in seeking higher office. DeSantis, meanwhile, has postured as a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2024, and observers speculate that DeSantis could run even if former president Donald Trump decides to launch another campaign.

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Baker on Monday reiterated his calls for comprehensive immigration reform during the hour-long radio appearance. But doing so would take compromise, he said, something he said would also mean Democrats and Republicans “probably lose some edge that they might currently have with this issue.”

“I have been watching Republicans and Democrats that are running for president tee off on each other. That doesn’t help solve the problem, OK?” Baker said. “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.”

Dozens of migrants who landed on Martha’s Vineyard left the island shortly thereafter for temporary housing on Joint Base Cape Cod in Bourne. Baker said Monday some have since left, though he didn’t say how many.

At the time of their move, Baker said he was prepared to mobilize up to 125 members of the Massachusetts National Guard as part of the relief effort. He has since largely steered his public comments about the situation to the state’s response rather than the debate about the political intentions behind DeSantis’ move.

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Last week, Baker said he was pleased a Texas sheriff had launched a criminal investigation into the relocation, calling it the “right thing to do.”

On immigration reform, Baker said Monday that the country “should have real borders, [and] our immigration policy should be enforceable.” But he also layered that with a healthy cynicism that changes at the national level are politically feasible.

“There’s a whole bunch of people in both parties who, I think, benefit tremendously from the fact that this issue isn’t being solved,” he said.


Matt Stout can be reached at matt.stout@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mattpstout.