Migrants land at Martha’s Vineyard

Updated September 15

A group of 50 Venezuelan migrants, including some children, landed at Martha’s Vineyard on Wednesday. The migrants arrived by air at Martha’s Vineyard airport.

According to Martha’s Vineyard Airport Manager Geoff Freeman, the name of the charter was Ultimate Air Charters. He said it was two planes that arrived at the airport and not just one as originally reported.

Fox News reports that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis takes credit for sending the migrants to the island and shared a video with this outlet. In 2021, DeSantis promised to spend $8 million to send immigrants out of state and mentioned the vineyard as a destination. His press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Freeman confirmed that one of the planes in the video broadcast by Fox News is the plane that landed at the vineyard.

The Times has learned that the refugees arrived via Texas, but the situation has been fluid and there has been much confusion surrounding today’s events. The Times learned that it was a “company” that organized the flights by providing individuals with mobile phone numbers before departure. Migrants used translation apps on these phones as they got off the plane.

State Representative Dylan Fernandes, D-Falmouth, arrived on the island Wednesday evening and visited St. Andrews Episcopal Church in Edgartown, where the refugees are staying, to assess the situation. “It appears that one, if not many, Republican governors or agents have chartered flights from the south to drop off undocumented or documented immigrants, I’m not sure, at Martha’s Vineyard,” he said. -he declares. “These governors or whoever they are, all they care about is scoring political points on Tucker Carlson and Fox News and the fact that they are using human lives – women, children, men – as pawns and really abuse these people who give up take them to a place where they don’t know where they are, no food or water, just so they can get into the good graces of Tucker Carlson and Fox News, it’s disgusting. It’s inhumane. Do these people call themselves Christians? It’s about the most anti-Christian thing you can do. It’s evil.

State Sen. Julian Cyr, D-Truro, also spoke out against the political coup. “It’s deeply disgusting. It’s a cruel ruse that manipulates families seeking a better life,” he said. He pointed out that these “fundamentally racist tactics” have been tried before. civil rights, the segregationists got 95 black families to move to Hyannis.”And what happened was the people from Hyannis helped the families and they stayed on Cape Cod,” Cyr said.

A spokesperson for Governor Charlie Baker released a statement Wednesday evening. “The Baker-Polito administration is in contact with local officials regarding the arrival of migrants at Martha’s Vineyard. Currently, short-term accommodation services are provided by local officials, and the administration will continue to support these efforts.

U.S. Representative Bill Keating, D-Bourne, released a statement criticizing what he called a “taxpayer-funded stunt” by DeSantis. “History does not look kindly on rulers who treat human beings like commodities, loading them up and sending them thousands of miles away without telling them where they are going. Yet Florida Governor Ron DeSantis made that choice today. Instead of working to find help for a group of refugees, he chose to turn them into political pawns,” Keating said. “Instead of trying to help them, he chose to charter a private jet and send them to a rural community on the island late in the day and without warning so they wouldn’t have the resources ready to help them. sustain. But the people of Martha’s Vineyard, its vibrant immigrant community, and the Commonwealth as a whole are already calling Governor DeSantis’ bluff and rising to the challenge because that’s what Americans do — we help those in need. I applaud Governor Baker for his administration’s efforts to step up and help these refugees despite the lack of advance notice of their impending arrival, and I am disgusted by Governor DeSantis’ decision to prioritize cruelty and chaos over than human dignity in today’s taxpayer-funded set-up.

Just after 5 p.m. Wednesday, outside Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, Dukes County Sheriff Robert Ogden rounded up the refugees and spoke to them.
“We’ll take care of you,” Ogden said and his words were translated to the assembled crowd. “Gather all your belongings and then we’ll leave. Does everyone have their personal effects? We’re going to start moving you that way.

The group was taken to Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School where they received snacks and shelter. Some children played outside with hula hoops.

“The most important thing is that we get you food, shelter and water,” Ogden told them.

Provided with snacks, water and temporary shelter, the refugees were kept at the MVRHS until approximately 6:30 p.m., then transported by school bus to St. Andrews Church in Edgartown to spend the night. .

According to Barbara Rush, representing the church in the absence of Pastor Chip Seadale – who answered the call of the MVCS and offered the church as a refuge – the church can legally accommodate 80 people.

With dozens of pies sent by Edgartown Pizza, the refugees were able to settle in, gathering inside the church after testing negative for COVID-19.

Dana Edelman of MVCS, who had spent hours touring, working to ‘track’ the group and assessing the refugees’ urgent needs, said after speaking through numerous translators, ‘there has been a lot of trauma”.

Some of them, Edelman said, “have been through a lot. Some of them have a long story to tell.

In his interactions with refugees, he garnered consensus. “Someone sent them here, and they didn’t know where they were going,” he said. Transport details and different experiences remain unclear. Overall, he says, “they feel betrayed.”

Edelman pointed out that among the group there are “varied accounts” regarding their journey.

Later that evening, Mocha Motts arrived on the scene and provided coffee.

Oak Bluffs Fire Chief Nelson Wirtz told The Times that no medical issues were reported.

Speaking through an interpreter, one of the migrants told The Times he wanted to come to the island and was looking for a job. Another migrant named Leonel told The Times through an interpreter that he had no idea where he was.

Schools Superintendent Richie Smith told The Times that the refugees are mostly men and women between the ages of 25 and 35. He said there are 10 to 12 children who are elementary age.

Edgartown Police Chief Bruce McNamee said the migrants were split between two buildings – single men in one and families in the other. “It’s a short-term fix for now and right now we’re working on something longer-term,” McNamee said.

Fernandes added that the state will do everything possible to help. “Tomorrow we have to come up with a longer-term game plan – make sure they have a more established place to be long-term,” he said. “We have always been an island of immigrants. We have seen how amazing it is; how the island came together to support everyone. We are stronger thanks to immigrants. America is stronger because of immigrants, and we will welcome them with open arms.

Like Fernandes, Cyr praised Island’s response. “The Herculean response from first responders, MV Community Services, the Sheriff and churches shows the spirit of who we are as a community,” he said.

Smith said he wasn’t sure the migrants knew where they were. “I believe they know they came from Texas here. I’m not sure they all know they’re here in Massachusetts on an island,” he said.

Dozens of volunteers help out. Two Spanish teachers helped with the interpretation, as did staff members from MV Community Services, Smith said. There were even high school students helping out, he said.

St. Andrews has been fitted out with inflatable mattresses. He said organizers would regroup in the morning to determine next steps.

At the West Tisbury board meeting on Wednesday, town administrator Jennifer Rand told the board the news of immigrants arriving at the vineyard.

“I just wanted to let you know that there is a situation unfolding right now,” Rand told the board. “Texas, Florida and Alabama started flying planes with immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard, dropping them off and leaving.”

Only one plane landed, although officials expect more could arrive.

Rand told the council about the 50 immigrants who have already arrived on the island, who she says will go to St. Andrews Church in Edgartown. “We understand that maybe two more planes are coming with maybe 50 or more people,” she said, claiming she received “angry texts” during the meeting. “I’m a little fuzzy about the situation, like everyone else because everyone is scrambling a bit.”

The question of where to house the immigrants is being discussed as “a larger plan is being considered”, according to Rand. With the number of other arrivals uncertain, Rand said a possible place to put them up for the night is the hall at Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society. Rand said the ward isn’t a long-term plan because it’s a place with no beds or showers. She also said food could be an issue as Martha’s Vineyard Red Cross is “not participating” at this time.

Elizabeth Folcarelli, executive director of MV Community Services, said the group appeared to believe more migrants were heading to the island from Texas and “that they were part of a bigger group”.
Republican governors of Texas and Arizona reportedly sent migrants to Washington, DC, by bus.

Like DeSantis, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas and Texas Governor Greg Abbott also made public comments suggesting that immigrants crossing the border into Texas should be shipped to blue states and even mentioned Martha’s Vineyard because it is the summer residence. of former President Barack Obama.

A call to Abbott’s press office was not immediately returned

Last October, Cruz introduces legislation that would establish new ports in 13 Democratic-led communitiesmentioning Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket by name, called the “Stop the Surge Act”.

Abigail Rosen, Eunki Seonwoo, and Rich Saltzberg contributed to this story.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly called the charter company Ultra Air Charters.

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