EDGARTOWN, Mass. — Two planes carrying 50 migrants landed unexpectedly on Martha’s Vineyard on Wednesday in an act that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is taking credit for.
“Yes, Florida can confirm the two planes with illegal immigrants that arrived in Martha’s Vineyard today were part of the state’s relocation program to transport illegal immigrants to sanctuary destinations,” said Taryn Fenske, DeSantis’ communications director.
DeSantis’ act was a tactic that Republican-led states are deploying to move loads of immigrants to Democrat-run states as a form of protest against the rise of illegal immigration and draw attention to what they consider to be the Biden administration’s failed border policies.
“We take what’s happening at the southern border very seriously, unlike some, and unlike the president of the United States who has refused to lift a finger to secure that border,” DeSantis said Thursday at an event for truckers in Florida. “You’ve had millions and millions of people pouring across illegally, a record amount of fentanyl coming into our country. It is absolutely killing Americans in record numbers.”
This is not the first time a large group of migrants was sent to a city unannounced—it’s happened in New York City and Chicago.
States like Massachusetts, New York and California will better care for the migrants who they’ve invited into the country, according to DeSantis. He also claims being designated as a sanctuary state incentivizes illegal immigration.
“If you have folks that are inclined to think Florida’s a good place, our message to them is we are not a sanctuary state and it’s better to be able to go to a sanctuary jurisdiction,” DeSantis explained. “We will help facilitate that transport for you to be able to go to greener pastures.”
Massachusetts State Representative Dylan Fernandes represents Martha’s Vineyard as a Democrat and told Boston 25 that local officials had no idea the planes were landing until he received a phone call at 5:00 p.m.
After the migrants were loaded onto buses, Fernandes said they were eventually brought to a shelter in Edgartown. There, islanders and officials helped out by giving the migrants beds, food, and medical care.
“We had no heads up about it here,” said Fernandes. “These families walked several miles to Martha’s Vineyard Community Services. There was no one there to pick them up.”
After meeting with the migrants, Fernandes said they were brought to a local high school before ultimately being brought to a shelter in Edgartown. At the shelter, Fernandes told Boston 25 the island newcomers were given beds, food and medical care. A play area was even assembled for the children present.
“We are a community of immigrants,” Fernandes told Boston 25. “We’re taking care of everyone right now.”
Fernandes said that there is an early morning call with federal and state partners scheduled for Thursday to plan the immediate future of the immigrants.
According to Fernandes, the group of migrants were told they would be given jobs and housing upon arrival. In Fernandes’ mind, the entire event was the result of a cruel bit of political posturing.
“This is just an incredibly cheap political move by the governor of Florida. Using humans as political pawns. Plotting to do this for months. One of the most powerful people in the country, who runs a state, has been spending their time on how to plot, how to move immigrant families and lie to them about where they’re going. Lie to them about where they’re going and then send them to our community with no heads up. Think about what kind of person would actually do that.”
The Dukes County Emergency Management Association put a call for volunteers to aid what they called an “urgent humanitarian situation” and opened emergency shelters across the island.
According to Fernandes, the group of volunteers assisting the newcomers are in need of Spanish-speakers and are trying to marshal immigration attorneys to the Vineyard.
Despite the confusion of their initial arrival, Fernandes told Boston 25 that local islanders and businesses responded in force to assist the immigrants in need. The State Rep found himself touched that the migrants were not welcomed with chaos, but compassion.
“Even in a situation like this where somehow is using a cheap political move to earn points on Fox News or MAGA twitter, we’re responding by jumping to action as a community that they need,” Fernandes said.
While the ultimate destination of the group is still unknown, they spent Wednesday night in a community that provided care and treatment. A community that Fernandes believes represents the best of America.
“We as a community, we came together... We are here to support these families. We got them the shelter, the food, the beds they need and we’re going to keep supporting them,” said Fernandes. “That is what this country is all about. Coming together and stepping up and helping vulnerable people in a moment of need.”
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