Gov Baker applauds move to investigate migrant flights to MA; calls immigration a “giant problem”

BOSTON — Governor Charlie Baker is calling for the U.S. immigration system to be reformed and says he’s in favor of a just-announced criminal investigation into how migrant flights to Martha’s Vineyard last week came to be.

On Monday, the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office in Texas said those migrants were “lured” into boarding the planes from a migrant resource center in San Antonio, Texas, and Sheriff Javier Salazar said his office is working with private attorneys who are representing the victims, as well as advocacy organizations regarding the flights.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has previously claimed that his deportation program was responsible for the migrants’ arrival on Martha’s Vineyard.

On Tuesday, Governor Baker was asked if he thought a crime had been committed.

“I don’t know,” said Baker. “Look, it’s up to the authorities on the ground there to figure out what did and didn’t happen. I am very glad that the sheriff chose to open an investigation. I think that’s the right thing to do.”

Baker was also asked if he had spoken with Governor Desantis about the flights.

“I haven’t spoken to anybody about it. I’m mostly focused on trying to make sure we can come up with service plans and solutions for the people who are here,” said Baker.

“Everybody who pays attention to this issue knows that we have a giant problem with immigration in the United States,” said Baker. “It needs to be reformed. I’ve been saying this for eight years to my colleagues at the federal level. Sending people all over the country, who don’t know where they’re going and, in some cases, maybe under false pretenses is just a really lousy thing to do.”

“You need to remember that there are people who show up in Massachusetts almost every day with varying immigration status and our goal, working with many of our partners in the non-profit community, is to come up with ways for them to deal with whatever the issues they have associated with paperwork and status and housing and work because that’s most of the time what they’re most interested in and that’s what we can do something about,” said Baker.

Most of the migrants flown to Martha’s Vineyard and then transferred to the mainland are now staying at Joint Base Cape Cod in Bourne.

“The big thing we’re working on is coming up with what I would describe as more appropriate housing solutions,” said Baker.

“This is a big step up from what they had in the Vineyard where everybody was basically in a church, which was incredibly gracious, but I think had two bathrooms and one shower,” said Baker. “They have a lot more privacy where they are now, but our goal is to come up with a strategy that figures out some way to help them land in what I would describe as a more appropriate setting.”

“I don’t know what is going to happen going forward but I want you all to remember that we do have folks coming to Massachusetts - at least the last eight years that I’ve been governor - who in many cases have varying immigration statuses of one kind or another and we do the best we can working with our colleagues in the non-profit community to come up with solutions for them and we’ll continue to do that, just as we’ll do with these folks,” said Baker.

Two Massachusetts lawmakers who visited the base on Monday indicated the migrants felt manipulated into taking the flights to Martha’s Vineyard.

“At a bare minimum, like fraud, these are some very fraudulent activities,” said Rep. Dylan Fernandes said. “I know their attorneys are pushing for a broader Department of Justice response.”

Governor DeSantis responded to the fallout from the migrant flights during an appearance in Bradenton, Florida on Tuesday.

“Those migrants were being treated horribly by Biden,” said DeSantis. “They were hungry, homeless. They had no opportunity at all. State of Florida - it was volunteer - offered transport to sanctuary jurisdictions.”

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