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Critics say GOP is "using children as political pawns" after migrants unexpectedly flown to Martha's Vineyard

Volunteers on Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts found themselves scrambling to find shelter, food, water and other services to accommodate the unforeseen arrival of 50 migrants, including the elderly and children, who were flown there Wednesday as part of what Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis calls a relocation program.

The move echoes similar actions by other Republican politicians in recent months. Since the spring, GOP governors in Texas and Arizona have transported several thousand migrants and asylum seekers to New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C. — all cities with Democratic mayors.

Yet, unlike those major cities, the unexpected arrivals in Martha's Vineyard weren't met with migrant resources and services, such as immigration courts where their asylum hearings can be heard. Many of the migrants didn't know where they were going, and local officials were not given any advance notice of the flight's arrival, Nick Giovanni of CBS News' Boston station WBZ reported Thursday.

Massachusetts state Rep. Dylan Fernandes called the move by the DeSantis government to transport migrants to the island with seemingly no coordination "evil."

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

Witnesses say the group wandered some three miles from the airport into Edgartown. Once in town, the migrants were met by volunteers who brought them to a high school where they were fed and later transported by school bus to a church to stay for the night. 

Authorities sent out urgent pleas on social media asking for volunteers to help with an "urgent humanitarian situation."

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

Rush said she worked into the night helping the migrant families at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church.

"We're not sure what plane brought them here or how they got on a plane to here," she said.

Volunteers said they were told by some of the migrants they did not know where they were but were told they would be given housing and jobs.

In a tweet, Democratic state Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa praised local officials and attacked the Florida government's tactic.

"In Massachusetts, we used our [Fiscal Year 2023] state budget to continue free meals for kids in school. In Florida, they used theirs to fund treating humans like cargo," she wrote.

A statement by a DeSantis spokesperson read in part: "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.'" 

Massachusetts Republican Gov. Charlie Baker said the state will continue to support the short-term shelter services being provided to those migrants.

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