Two planes carrying migrants were sent by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to Martha’s Vineyard on Wednesday night, his office said, infuriating Democratic politicians and prompting a frantic response that included humanitarian aid from locals and assistance from officials. from Massachusetts.
It is the latest in a series of moves by Republican governors to ferry migrants to northern liberal enclaves to protest what they say are insufficient federal security efforts at the southern border. Located off the coast of Massachusetts and long known as a posh summer destination for wealthy vacationers, Martha’s Vineyard provided an unusual and unexpected place for migrants to send.
Lawmaker says DeSantis used migrants for his own political advantage
“We’re not a sanctuary state, and it’s better to be able to get to a sanctuary jurisdiction, and yes, we’ll help facilitate that transportation so you can go to greener pastures,” DeSantis said Thursday, a day after claiming credit for sending the two planes to the island. “Every community in America should share the burdens. Not everything should fall on a handful of red states.
Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins told reporters Thursday she would speak with Justice Department officials about DeSantis sending the migrants to Martha’s Vineyard, saying she did not yet have enough information. information to say whether he had broken any laws in doing so. She added that their first priority was to make sure people arriving were treated with respect.
About 50 migrants arrived at Martha’s Vineyard on Wednesday on two planes, according to Massachusetts State Senator Julian Cyr, a Democrat who represents Martha’s Vineyard. The two planes arrived just after 3 p.m. ET, Cyr said, and white vans took the migrants to Martha’s Vineyard Community Services.
Edgartown city administrator James Hagerty told CNN on Thursday that officials believe all of the migrants were from Venezuela, and a local fire chief said earlier in the day that the migrants included seven families. , with four children aged 3 to 8. .
“There was no advance notice to anyone in Martha’s Vineyard or Massachusetts that these migrants were coming to my knowledge,” Cyr said.
City officials and state officials are in contact on next steps, but Cyr stressed that the current focus is on supporting the migrants who have arrived.
In addition to island residents’ response efforts, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency is expected to be on the ground to coordinate efforts.
Terry MacCormack, press secretary for Republican Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, said in a statement obtained by CNN affiliate WBZ, “The Baker-Polito administration is in contact with local authorities regarding the arrival of migrants in Martha’s Vineyard. Currently, short-term accommodation services are provided by local officials, and the administration will continue to support these efforts.
DeSantis’ claim drew a strong backlash from Democratic officials in Florida and the White House.
“Even for Ron DeSantis, this is a new low,” Florida Democratic President Manny Diaz said in a statement. “There’s nothing DeSantis won’t do, and nobody he won’t hurt, in order to score political points.”
Charlie Crist, the Democratic candidate for governor of Florida, said in a statement, “This is just another political stunt that is hurting our state. Tonight, the 4.5 million immigrants who live in Florida must be wondering if they are next.
And the White House on Thursday denounced DeSantis’ decision and Republican Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas’ decision to intentionally send two busloads of migrants to Vice President Kamala Harris’ residence in the nation’s capital. Those migrants were safely transported to a local church, according to a Department of Homeland Security spokesperson.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre accused governors of using migrants as “political pawns” and said their actions constituted a “cruel and premeditated political coup”.
The latest measures follow in the footsteps of Republican Governor Doug Ducey of Arizona, who began sending migrants to Washington, DC, earlier this year. Abbott has since expanded its efforts to include New York and Chicago.
Migrants released from government custody often move to other cities in the United States during their immigration process. It is unclear whether the migrants who arrived at Martha’s Vineyard knew where they were going.
Despite the unexpected arrivals, some islanders have worked quickly to provide some essential services.
“This is a community gathering to support immigrant children and families. This is the best in America,” Massachusetts State Rep. Dylan Fernandes, a Democrat who represents the island, said in a series of tweet which included photos of the migrants receiving food and beds.
“Our island has sprang into action by bringing together 50 beds, giving everyone a good meal, providing a play area for the kids, making sure people have the healthcare and support they need. need,” Fernandes wrote in another Tweeter. “We are a community that comes together to support immigrants.
Martha’s Vineyard officials say they are working with a coalition on the island to provide “shelter, food and care for people” who arrived on the island on Wednesday, according to a statement from the Management Association. county emergencies.
The Edgartown Police Department said no additional supplies were needed for the migrants who arrived Wednesday and asked people to refrain from dropping off additional items to keep traffic flowing.
A media representative from Martha’s Vineyard Community Service helping coordinate services for migrants praised the community’s response, saying some local restaurants were offering free food.
Resources from a programmatic perspective include coordinating food, clothing and translation services, the representative said.
The migrants slept at St. Andrew’s Church on Wednesday night, which often helps house those in need, the representative said.
Some of the migrants on Thursday morning said they were cold and the service center helped bring more clothes, the representative said.
Meanwhile, Hagerty said on Thursday that migrants would have been told before arriving on the island that they would find employment and accommodation there.
“They received community service packets before they got off the plane,” he said, adding that he was not sure which third party provided the information packets to the migrants.
CORRECTION: This story has been updated to reflect that the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency is involved in the response to the arrival of migrants. It has also been updated with additional reports.