EDGARTOWN, Mass. (WPRI) — Around four dozen undocumented immigrants unexpectedly arrived in Martha’s Vineyard on Wednesday, causing officials on the island to scramble to help.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis confirmed to Boston media outlets that two planes with migrants were sent to Massachusetts as part of his state’s relocation program.
State Rep. Dylan Fernandes said he only learned of the group’s arrival at 5 p.m. Wednesday and while their arrival was unexpected, the men, women and children were met with food and shelter.
Once the group landed, they walked for miles to a community center before filing onto a bus where they were taken to a church to spend the night, according to Fernandes.
“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. We are a community that comes together to support immigrants,” Fernandes posted on Twitter.
“These immigrants were not met with chaos, they were met with compassion. We are a community & nation that is stronger because of immigrants. The community coming together with water, food, interpretation help, & resources to support these families represent the best of America,” another tweet read.
Fernandes said emergency shelters were set up to house the asylum seekers at St. Andrew’s parish in Edgartown. Volunteers were on hand to provide translations and support.
One of the Venezuelans, who chose to remain anonymous, told 12 News he doesn’t want to go home while the current government is in power. He said he’d been traveling for a month when he was approached by a woman in Texas and offered a flight to Massachusetts, which he’s grateful for since he now has more options available.
The New York Times reports the program DeSantis mentioned is a tactic used by Republican-led states to move immigrants to Democrat-led states as a form of protest against the rise in immigration.
12 News reached out to DeSantis’s office and has not heard back.
“It was incredibly inhumane using humans as political pawns, plotting to do this for months,” Fernandes added. “One of the most powerful people in the country who runs the state as in spending their time on how to plot, how to move immigrant families and lie to them about where they’re going.”
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Officials on Martha’s Vineyard held a meeting Thursday afternoon to discuss a long-term plan for the migrants.
“On behalf of the Commonwealth, I thank everyone on the ground who quickly came together to provide assistance on the Vineyard,” Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said in a statement.
“The Commonwealth has many resources for assisting individuals that arrive in Massachusetts with varying immigration statuses and needs and is working with all partners involved to make sure those resources are available to the migrants that arrived last night,” he continued. “In addition, the Baker-Polito Administration is exploring setting up temporary shelter and humanitarian services at Joint Base Cape Cod and will share additional information as soon as it becomes available.”