Immigration expert outlines next steps for Martha’s Vineyard migrants

Governor Baker has activated 125 members of the Massachusetts National Guard to assist in relief efforts for the nearly 50 migrants who came here last week.

Those migrants are now staying at Joint Base Cape Cod after they were flown into Martha’s Vineyard on Wednesday.

“There’s no doubt about the fact that it was a political move, not a move calculated to make the system work or to help people,” said Paul Wickham Schmidt, a retired U.S. Immigration judge and adjunct professor at Georgetown University.

Schmidt says it was surprising to see dozens of migrants dropped off on Martha’s Vineyard last week without any notice.

“With advanced notice, I think they could have done an even better job and probably with more focus on helping the individuals and less focus on what’s happening here,” said Schmidt.

People living on Martha’s Vineyard jumped into action to provide food and shelter for the immigrants from Venezuela, and now this weekend, they’ve been moved to dorms set up at Joint Base Cape Cod, where MEMA is trying to keep families together while providing not only beds and food, but also services from health care to legal support.

“Getting somebody who can take a personal interest and can make sure people can check in where they’re supposed to,” said Schmidt.

Schmidt says now, the migrants will need lawyers to help them check into an ICE office, Immigration court and an asylum office – all of which didn’t exist on Martha’s Vineyard.

Even though the last few days have been confusing, Schmidt believes the migrants will get the help they need as they get closer to Boston.

“This could have some silver linings because I think the people aren’t in Texas, which is sort of an asylum-free zone, where the judges deny almost every asylum case and there’s obviously a hostile local attitude,” said Schmidt.

Schmidt says immigration courts in Massachusetts are more likely to grant asylum cases than in Texas or Florida.

State leaders say they appreciate all the donations and support coming in for the migrants, but at this point they can’t accept any donations at Joint Base Cape Cod.

If you’d like to donate to the relief efforts, you should send an email to the Massachusetts Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters at MAVOAD@gmail.com.

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