Migrants sent to Martha’s Vineyard volunteered to be taken to military base for asylum and support


About 50 migrants flown by Florida’s governor this week to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, will be transported to a military base for asylum and humanitarian support Friday, officials said.

The Massachusetts governor said the migrants were brought to Joint Base Cape Cod voluntarily. Charlie Baker added that he was activating as many as 125 members of the National Guard to assist with the rescue effort.

The migrants were dispatched to Martha’s Vineyard by Florida’s governor on Wednesday. Ron DeSantis is the latest in a series of moves by Republican governors to transport migrants to the northern freedom enclave in protest of what they say are inadequate federal efforts to secure the southern border. DeSantis’ move was harshly condemned by the White House, immigration advocates and Democratic officials.

Immigrants cheered Friday morning when they heard the Massachusetts state government would shelter them at the Cape Cod military base, where they had been living in a church on Martha’s Vineyard.

They hugged each other and hugged locals before boarding buses provided by state and local governments to the base.

A volunteer helping migrants burst into tears as they left among those hugging them.

“This is another person – of many people – who was a very difficult time in their life and they shared it with us with such grace, affection and humor. It was a gift to be welcomed in their lives and in their hearts,” Lisa Bel Castro said.

A group of civil rights lawyers who work with immigrants say their stories are “heartbreaking and outrageous.” Many migrants went to hospitals that needed care after arriving on the island on Wednesday.

The group said some of those immigrants were sent to Martha’s Vineyard, even though their immigration hearings were scheduled not far from Massachusetts. Immigrants released from government custody often move to other cities in the United States as part of the immigration process.

“This cowardly political stunt puts our clients at risk,” the group of civil rights lawyers said in a news release Friday. “Some are now having immigration hearings as early as Mondays thousands of miles away.”

Some of the group’s lawyers accompanied the migrants on the bus to the Cape Cod base.

Migrants from Martha's Vineyard boarded a bus that took them to a military base on Cape Cod on Friday.

Joint Base Cape Cod — already an emergency shelter designated by the state’s emergency management agency — is designed to provide “safe temporary shelter suitable for the needs of families and individuals,” the governor’s office said in a release.

The immigrants “will be housed in JBCC’s dormitory-style spaces, with separate spaces for individuals and families,” and the families will not be separated, the release said.

They will receive services including legal, health care, food, hygiene products and crisis counseling, according to Baker’s office.

Republican Baker praised the Martha’s Vineyard community’s temporary shelter for immigrants in a “time of urgent need.”

“We are grateful to the vendors, volunteers and local officials who have stepped up Martha’s Vineyard to provide immediate service to these individuals over the past few days,” Baker said in a news release.

DeSantis’ decision to arrange for migrants to fly to Massachusetts is one of two high-profile vehicles sent north by the southern Republican governor this week. On Thursday, the governor sent two immigration buses from Texas. Greg Abbott arrives outside the residence of Vice President Kamala Harris in the US capital.

Texas began shipping migrants to Washington this spring. Arizona Republican Gov. Doug Ducey followed suit this year, and the two states have since sent thousands of immigrants to Washington. Abbott has expanded the Texas effort to New York City and Chicago.

On Thursday, the White House condemned DeSantis and Abbott’s actions this week. White House press secretary Carin Jean-Pierre accused the governor of using immigrants as “political pawns” and said their actions amounted to a “brutal, premeditated political stunt.”

U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Rachel Rollins will speak with Justice Department members about DeSantis sending immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard, though she doesn’t yet have enough information to say whether he violated the law Any law, she told reporters on Thursday.

Despite the sudden arrival on Martha’s Vineyard on Wednesday, some residents on the island worked quickly to provide some critical services.

“Our island is moving, with 50 hospital beds, a great meal for everyone, a play area for the kids, and ensuring people get the health care and support they need,” said the Massachusetts Rep. Dylan Fernandes, a Democrat representing the island, wrote on twitter. “We are a community united in support of immigrants.”

Edgartown Mayor James Hagerty told CNN Friday that tens of thousands of dollars were donated to help the community.

Overall, Haggerty said there was “a downpour” and reiterated that the island community responded to calls for help when migrants arrived unannounced earlier in the week.

“Sometimes we’re lonely and fearless here, but we know the road to travel, and we know we’re a community that ultimately wants to help people,” Haggerty said.

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