JOINT BASE CAPE COD — Shortly after noon Friday, a group of migrants, mostly originating from Venezuela, arrived at their new temporary home on Cape Cod after an unexpected arrival Wednesday on Martha’s Vineyard.
Officials have been working to house, feed and support the group of about 50 migrants since they arrived on the wealthy Massachusetts island Wednesday afternoon.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis took credit for chartering the two flights, but it’s unclear if he had the authority to do so. A spokesperson for DeSantis said the migrants were flown to Martha’s Vineyard as part of the governor’s “promise to drop off undocumented migrants in progressive states.”
Their arrival comes after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey criticized the Biden administration’s border security and immigration policies and bused migrants to New York City, Chicago and Washington. Nearly 8,000 migrants had been moved on state-sponsored bus trips by late August, straining cities’ resources.
Biden on Thursday called the move reckless and un-American. “Instead of working with us on solutions, Republicans are playing politics with human beings, using them as props,” Biden said.
On Friday, the group was moved to Joint Base Cape Cod, a facility that is home to five military commands, where state and local officials were coordinating food, shelter and essential services with volunteers, the Dukes County Emergency Management Association said in a release.
Here’s what we know:
Migrants were ‘lied to again and again,’ immigration attorney says
The migrants who arrived at Martha’s Vineyard were falsely told there would be jobs and housing waiting for them upon arrival, an immigration attorney told journalists Thursday.
“Accounts from the migrants who arrived last night make it clear that they were lied to again and again,” Rachel Self said.
The migrants were given the offer of jobs, free housing, and $50 gift cards, according to Domingo Garcia, president of the League of United Latin American Citizens, a Washington-based civil rights group.
He said they were handed red folders with what proved to be fake documents promising jobs and housing, then flown to Martha’s Vineyard in private charter planes, stopping at least once along the way.
FOLLOW THE FLIGHT:Florida Gov. DeSantis flew 50 migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard
None of the men had ever heard of Martha’s Vineyard before, Garcia said. All of them had wanted to go to Florida.
Julio Henriquez, an attorney who met with several migrants, said they “had no idea of where they were going or where they were.”
Many of the migrants have appointments with ICE Monday morning in Texas, Washington, and D.C., Self said – appointments they’re worried about missing.
U.S. officials told immigration attorneys that required check-ins would be postponed, Henriquez said. Homeland Security officials didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.
Buses, ferry take group to Cape Cod
The group left a church where they had been sheltering Friday and boarded buses bound for the Vineyard Haven ferry terminal. Police and state emergency management officials escorted the group through a crowd of people. As the migrants passed flashing cameras, they stopped to bid farewell to the islanders who welcomed them.
At the ferry terminal, Everlides Dela Hoz said she didn’t know where she was headed. Dela Hoz traveled from Venezuela with her husband and 25-year-old son. On Friday, she said she was told there would be beds and that it would be safe and that they were promised help finding work.
After a short passage to the mainland, the migrants arrived at the Steamship Authority’s Woods Hole station. Onlookers erupted in applause as their bus, led by a state police escort, left the boat.
State Rep. Dylan Fernandes, a Democrat, told reporters at the Steamship Authority dock in Woods Hole that the migrants were given the option to go to the base, but he didn’t know the exact number of people who had arrived there Friday.
“This is what good government actually looks like, what compassionate government actually looks like,” Fernandes said. “I couldn’t be prouder of the people of Martha’s Vineyard and Cape Cod and I couldn’t be prouder to have a state team pull this together so quickly. We are a community that sprang together to give them the resources they needed, there was an outpouring of support from everywhere to help out.”
Shelter, humanitarian support to be provided at Joint Base Cape Cod
Gov. Charlie Baker’s office on Friday morning announced plans to provide new shelter and humanitarian support at the base, located on the Upper Cape, in cooperation with the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency and other officials. The governor said he would activate up to 125 members of the Massachusetts National Guard to assist.
At Joint Base Cape Cod, the migrants will find respite in dormitory-style accommodations. Emergency management officials said there will be spaces both for singles and families, and that families will be kept together. They will be provided with clothing and toiletries kits, and food.
Officials said they will also have access to legal and health care services, as well as mental health and crises counseling services. Interpreters will be on hand to assist with communication.
Joint Base Cape Cod is a 22,000-acre facility and designated emergency shelter in Barnstable County. It’s used by the National Guard, Air Force and Coast Guard for training exercises. It is the only Coast Guard Aviation facility in the northeast and keeps watch over waters from New Jersey to the Canadian border.
Little information provided about flights
DeSantis took from the playbook of a fellow Republican, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, by surprising Democrat-led cities and states with large influxes of migrants. Providing little or no information is part of the plan.
Florida Gov. DeSantis:50 people flown to Martha’s Vineyard are ‘illegal immigrants’
The two flights from San Antonio to Martha’s Vineyard stopped in the Florida Panhandle, Julio Henriquez said. The Miami Herald reported that the flights originated in Texas with stops in Florida and North Carolina, citing information from flight tracking company FlightAware.
Meanwhile, questions are being raised over whether the DeSantis administration was authorized to shuttle migrants from his state. The Miami Herald reported that DeSantis’ comments at a Thursday press conference suggest that “his efforts prevented those migrants from ever making it to Florida.” According to the state budget, the DeSantis administration is only allowed to “transport unauthorized aliens from this state,” the Herald reported.
Biden: Republicans are ‘playing politics with human beings’
Some Republicans, including Stephen Miller, a chief architect of former President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, celebrated the surprise flights while critics have derided them as inhumane.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre accused DeSantis and Abbott of abandoning the migrants in Martha’s Vineyard and called the incident a “a cruel political stunt” Thursday.
President Joe Biden echoed that sentiment hours later criticizing Republican officials at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Gala.
“Instead of working with us on solutions, Republicans are playing politics with human beings, using them as props,” Biden said. “What they’re doing is simply wrong. It’s un-American. It’s reckless.”
Contributing: N’dea Yancey-Bragg, Rick Jervis and Rebecca Morin, USA TODAY; Bruce Bowman, Pensacola News-Journal; Gwenn Friss, Cape Cod Times; Associated Press