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Martha's Vineyard takes in 50 migrants sent unexpectedly by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis

Martha's Vineyard takes in 50 migrants sent unexpectedly by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis
Martha's Vineyard takes in 50 migrants sent unexpectedly by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis 02:03

BOSTON - Emergency shelters have been set up on Martha's Vineyard after 50 migrants landed on the island unexpectedly Wednesday afternoon. The men, women and children did not know where they were, but were told they would be given housing and jobs.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said his office organized the migrants' journey to Massachusetts on two planes as part of his state's relocation program. 

The group wandered some three-and-a-half miles from the airport to Edgartown.

"Martha's Vineyard Community Services had 50 people sort of literally walk up to their front door," said Barbara Rush, of St. Andrews Church. 

The migrants are from Venezuela. None of them speak English, according to Rush. She was told through an interpreter they came up from Texas. All tested negative for COVID and were given food, water and a place to sleep for the night.

"They had what was described as a map and instructions to go where there's housing and jobs waiting for them - and it was a vacant parking lot," Congressman Bill Keating told WBZ-TV Thursday.

In a statement, DeSantis said, "States like Massachusetts, New York, and California will better facilitate the care of these individuals who they have invited into our country by incentivizing illegal immigration through their designation as "sanctuary states" and support for the Biden Administration's open border policies."   

Migrants Martha's Vineyard
Migrants arrive in Martha's Vineyard, September 14, 2022 Martha's Vineyard Times

Keating tweeted, "History does not look kindly on leaders who treat human beings like cargo, loading them up and sending them a thousand miles away without telling them their destination."  

"Exploiting vulnerable people for political stunts is repulsive and cruel," Senator Elizabeth Warren tweeted Thursday. "Massachusetts is fully capable of handling asylum seekers, and I'll keep working with local, state, and federal partners to ensure we have the necessary resources to care for people with dignity."

Keller @ Large: DeSantis's Vineyard migrant stunt makes immigration crisis worse   

Massachusetts State Rep. Dylan Fernandes said although Martha's Vineyard residents were given little warning, the community has come together to support them.

"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," Fernandes tweeted. "We are a community that comes together to support immigrants."

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said he is in touch with local officials and short-term shelter services are being provided.  

"It's literally all hands-on deck of the community," Rush said. "Really beautiful to see the community all coming together to try to help." 

"They're using children as political pawns," Fernandes said. "But the island community has really rallied together."  

Two shelters have been established with additional space in case more people arrive. Edgartown Police released a statement Thursday saying they've received an overwhelming amount of support for the migrants and they don't need anything else dropped off at the shelters.

Since the spring, Republican governors in Texas and Arizona have sent several thousand migrants and asylum seekers to New York, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., all cities with Democratic mayors. Unlike those major cities, the arrivals on the Vineyard aren't met with migrant resources and services like immigration courts where their asylum cases can be heard. 

Martha's Vineyard has a population of about 15,000 and does not have any sanctuary cities. There are eight in Massachusetts though - Amherst, Boston, Cambridge, Concord, Lawrence, Newton, Northampton and Somerville.

According to the United Nations, Venezuela is the "second-largest external displacement crisis in the world."

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