The White House condemns the transfer of 50 Venezuelan migrants to the wealthy American island as a ‘cruel stunt’ by Republicans.
Migrants who were flown to the wealthy US island of Martha’s Vineyard this week in what critics have called a “cruel political stunt” by Republican lawmakers will be moved to a military base, Massachusetts state officials have announced.
About 50 migrants, including half a dozen children, boarded buses Friday to take the ferry to Cape Cod, where Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker said they would be temporarily housed at Joint Base Cape Cod.
They will receive housing in dormitories, food and services, including health care and access to counseling, Baker said in a statement, adding that 125 members of the National Guard will be activated to assist with the relief efforts.
“We are grateful to the health care providers, volunteers and local officials who have stepped up to Martha’s Vineyard over the past few days to immediately serve these individuals,” the Republican governor said.
The move left a number of Martha’s Vineyard residents in tears who volunteered to house the migrants in a church for two nights.
“I want them to have a good life,” said Lisa Belcastro, who helped organize cots and supplies at St. Andrews Episcopal Church, which sits among expensive white-shingled houses in Edgartown.
“I want them to come to America and be embraced. They all want to work.”
The group was flown to Martha’s Vineyard without warning on Thursday as part of an escalating effort by Republican governors to draw attention to what they view as US President Joe Biden’s failure to secure the US-Mexico border amid of record attempts to cross.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is running for re-election in November, has taken credit for transporting the migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, even though the legal basis for the Florida government to pick up migrants in another state suits remained unclear.
The migrants said they were recently admitted to the United States with an accelerated permit known as humanitarian parole after fleeing Venezuela and staying at a shelter in San Antonio, Texas.
Rachel Self, a Boston immigration attorney who provided legal aid to some migrants, said they had been lured to planes under false pretenses.
“They were told there was a surprise gift for them and that jobs and housing would be waiting for them when they arrived,” Self told a news conference on Thursday.
NEW: Immigration attorney Rachel Self is here at St. Anthony’s Church on Martha’s Vineyard, interviewing Venezuelan migrants about how they got here. She calls the whole ordeal “kidnapping.” #WBZ pic.twitter.com/Rs5NfI49WP
— Kristina Rex (@KristinaRex) September 15, 2022
“This was clearly a sadistic lie,” she said.
“Not only did those responsible for this stunt know there was no housing or work for the migrants, they also consciously chose not to call ahead any authority on Martha’s Vineyard so that even the most basic human needs could not be met. regularly. .”
The White House called the episode a “cruel, premeditated political stunt” by Republican leaders.
“Why else would Governor DeSantis have spent the time chartering a flight to get migrants from another state…hiring a videographer to capture footage of that flight, but not bothering to let Massachusetts authorities know? that migrant children need food and shelter were about to land on their doorstep?” White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters this on Friday.
She added that Republican governors of Texas and Florida are interested in creating “political theater,” rather than finding solutions that would help migrant families.
Flights to Martha’s Vineyard follow a bus schedule by Republican governors of Texas and Arizona, which has sent more than 10,000 migrants to the Democrat-controlled cities of Washington, DC, New York and Chicago since April.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott sent two buses carrying about 100 migrants to Vice President Kamala Harris’ home in the US capital on Thursday.
Immigration is a major concern for Republican voters, and the party has sought to draw attention to the issue ahead of the Nov. 8 midterm elections, which will decide control of Congress and key governorships.