The White House condemns the transfer of 50 Venezuelan immigrants to the rich US island as a “cruel trick” by the Republicans.
Immigrants who flew to the wealthy US island of Martha’s Vineyard this week in what critics have denounced as a “cruel political stunt” by Republican lawmakers will be transferred to a military base, Massachusetts state officials announced.
About 50 immigrants, including about a half-dozen children, boarded buses Friday to head to the ferry to Cape Cod, where Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said they would be temporarily housed at Joint Base Cape Cod.
They will be provided with dormitory-style housing, food and services, including medical care and access to counseling, Baker said in a statement, adding that 125 National Guardsmen will be activated to assist with relief efforts.
“We are grateful to the vendors, volunteers and local officials who have joined Martha’s Vineyard in recent days to provide immediate services to these individuals,” said the Republican governor.
The move left some Martha’s Vineyard residents in tears who volunteered to house the migrants at 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-clapboard houses in Edgartown.
“I want them to come to the United States and be accepted. They all want to work.”
The group was flown to Martha’s Vineyard unannounced Thursday as part of a growing effort by Republican governors to draw attention to what they see as US President Joe Biden’s failure to secure the border between the United States and Mexico amid record crossing attempts.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is running for re-election in November, has taken credit for transporting migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, though the legal basis for the Florida government to pick up migrants in a state different remains unclear.
The migrants said they had recently been admitted to the United States on an expedited permit known as humanitarian parole after fleeing Venezuela and had been staying at a shelter in San Antonio, Texas.
Rachel Self, a Boston immigration attorney who provided legal assistance to some of the immigrants, said they had been lured onto planes under false pretenses.
“They were told that there was a surprise gift for them and that there would be jobs and housing waiting for them when they arrived,” Self told reporters during a news conference on Thursday.
NEW: Immigration attorney Rachel Self is here at St. Anthony’s Church on Martha’s Vineyard and has been interviewing Venezuelan immigrants about how they got here. She calls the whole ordeal “kidnapping”. #WBZ pic.twitter.com/Rs5NfI49WP
— Kristina Rex (@KristinaRex) September 15, 2022
“This was obviously a sadistic lie,” he said.
“Those responsible for this stunt not only knew that there was no housing or employment waiting for the migrants, but they also very intentionally chose not to call any authority on Martha’s Vineyard so that even the most basic human needs could not be arranged. .”
The White House called the episode a “cruel and premeditated political stunt” by Republican leaders.
“Why else would Governor DeSantis take the time to charter a flight to get the migrants out of a different state…hire a videographer to capture footage of that flight, but not bother to inform Massachusetts authorities that the Migrant children need food and shelter? were about to land on your doorstep? White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Friday.
He added that the Republican governors of Texas and Florida are interested in creating “political theater,” rather than finding solutions that help migrant families.
The flights to Martha’s Vineyard follow a busing scheme by the Republican governors of Texas and Arizona that has sent more than 10,000 immigrants to the Democratic-controlled cities of Washington, DC, New York and Chicago since April.
On Thursday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott sent two buses carrying about 100 migrants to the home of Vice President Kamala Harris in the US capital.
Immigration is a key concern for Republican voters, and the party has sought to focus attention on the issue in the run-up to the Nov. 8 midterm elections that will decide control of Congress and key governorships.
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