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  • Julia Wesinger

Mess For Migrants: Florida Governor Sends Migrants To Martha’s Vineyard

Martha’s Vineyard, an island off the southern coast of Massachusetts, is probably best known for its tourism and wealthy clientele. Based solely on that description, it is not the place you would expect to see plane-fulls of unexpected immigrants unload.

On Wednesday, September 14, 2022, about fifty migrants—mostly from Venezuela— landed in Martha’s Vineyard via plane. The migrants, including adults and children, were fleeing Venezuela with unsatisfactory or detrimental living circumstances. Starting in San Antonio before arriving in the Vineyard, Florida state officials moved the migrants. The flights were part of a stunt by Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL) attempting to move asylum-seeking migrants to locations that will shelter them. Massachusetts has sanctuary cities but is not a sanctuary state.

Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL) has publicly claimed responsibility for the movement. The migrants were allegedly told that they were to be transported to Boston after arriving in Martha’s Vineyard and flew under the assumption that they would receive good treatment upon arrival. The Martha’s Vineyard community, which initially struggled with affordable housing, came together to support the migrants and provide them with food, shelter, clothing, and even COVID-19 tests. The locals have been extremely supportive of the Venezuelans and have found them housing in schools and churches across the island.

A legal group called Lawyers for Civil rights stepped forward following the transfer to represent the migrants. They are a Boston-based firm and have filed a class action lawsuit against Desantis and Florida officials. The group calls the stunt a, “fraudulent and discriminatory scheme” due to the circumstances surrounding the transport. The flights were not only paid for by taxpayer dollars but the Venezuelans were also lied to. The plan was to get them to the Vineyard with no plan for shelter or resources. The Boston group is providing pro bono services to the migrants and is attempting to halt Florida officials from allowing refugees to cross state lines unauthorized in the same fashion again.

The group's litigation and executive director have stated that “individuals, working in concert with the Florida governor, made numerous false promises to our clients, including work opportunities, schooling for their children, and immigration assistance, to induce them to travel.” They went on to explain that many of those transported were unable to attend their court hearings and other important immigration steps due to the actions of Gov. DeSantis.

On September 16, 2022, the migrants were again moved to Joint Base Cape Cod, where they are being temporarily sheltered. This second move was voluntary for the migrants, and they were given health care, translators, food, clothing, and case managers, along with education for the children who were on the transport.

The move seems to protest against undocumented immigration on Governor Desantis’s part. Since the election of Democratic President Joe Biden in January of 2020, there has been a steady rise in the number of immigrants entering the country without proper documentation. Biden’s most recent immigration proposal sees that more immigrants would be allowed into the United States, and those already in the country would have easier access to citizenship or legal status. He proposes a “crack down on criminal organizations,” and hopes to “support asylum seekers and other vulnerable populations.” In addition, Biden seeks to protect and embrace diversity while promoting the integration of immigrants into United States society.

The United States has more immigration than any other country in the world, and about 75% of Americans believe immigration is good for the country. In 2018, there were 44.8 million foreign born people living in the U.S. Of these, about 77% are in the United States legally. The numbers of immigrants coming to the U.S. have drastically risen in recent years.

In July 2021 there, 200,658 people were apprehended after crossing the border. By the end of 2021, over 1.5 million people had arrived at the border and crossed into the United States. There were also over one million deportations and expulsions of migrants from the U.S. by Border Control officials. These numbers are record-breaking for the U.S., and some state officials and citizens, specifically strong conservatives, have become concerned not only with the rise of immigrant numbers in the country but also the ability of those in charge of new policies in response.

Regardless of the actions of the leaders of the country, the Venezuelan migrants are still without permanent homes, are left with few resources, and must quickly adapt to live in the U.S. under less-than-ideal conditions. Most of them fled their country to escape the social injustices and collapsing class structures of their homes, only to enter the United States, a supposed sanctuary, to be greeted by chaos and uncertainty.


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