The final destination was unclear.
But for a migrant who landed in Martha’s Vineyard on Wednesday afternoon, his journey began in Venezuela and continued through Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico before finally crossing the border into the United States by taking swam across the Rio Grande River in Texas, where the police took him into custody for several days.
He said people told him he and a group of other migrants were headed north where people in other states could help them. The migrant, a man, asked not to give his name for fear of possible legal consequences. He spoke to MassLive outside St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Edgartown.
“We’re waiting to see if we can stay and work,” he said in Spanish. “That’s why we came to work and to help. If there is a chance we can work, we will.”
- Continue reading: Migrants sent to Martha’s Vineyard from Florida are being cared for while local officials scramble for a plan
Local officials on Martha’s Vineyard said they were finalizing Thursday morning’s next steps for a group of migrants who had landed on the island the previous day at the behest of elected officials in Florida and arranged flights for them to Massachusetts.
Details about the planes that arrived in Martha’s Vineyard were still unclear as of Thursday morning. Several reports cited two planes that landed on the island, although church officials could not confirm whether it was one plane or two and where the planes came from.
Immediate challenges were evident and concerned Lisa Belcastro, the Winter Homes Shelter coordinator, who, largely along with other attorneys, oversaw operations at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Edgartown. She said the temporary accommodation set up at the church was a “stopgap solution” and not a long-term care solution.
“Several cogs are turning and departments are working together,” she says shortly after 10 a.m. “At some point they have to go somewhere else, don’t they? We don’t have the services to take care of 50 immigrants. And we certainly don’t have housing – we are in a housing crisis, as we are on this island.”
Rep. Dylan Fernandes, a Democrat from Falmouth whose district covers the island, was on hand at the church and helped manage the situation. He said some of the migrants who arrived went to New York, while others believed they were being sent to Boston.
- Continue reading: Mass. officials condemn move to fly migrants from Florida to Martha’s Vineyard as ‘human trafficking’ ‘incredibly cruel’
After helping organize the initial response Wednesday night, including providing 50 beds for the migrants to sleep in at church, he said this “total political stunt” didn’t shake the community on Martha’s Vineyard brought.
“The immigrants who showed up weren’t met with chaos but with compassion from islanders who showed up and helped give them the support they need and I think that shows the best of this community,” he said. “We’re working with the state, we’re working with our federal partners, we’re pooling resources, and we’re bringing them here today. [Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency] get on the floor here now. We are examining many different options.”
Another House colleague, Rep. Jon Santiago, a Boston Democrat, also made the trip to the island. Santiago, an emergency room physician at Boston Medical Center, said he drove from Boston to offer medical assistance that may be needed.
He said other nurses and people with clinical skills stopped by to drop off supplies and other services.
“We only evaluate them to make sure there aren’t any critical health issues that need to be addressed,” he told MassLive. “The vast majority of them are healthy … and have no current emergencies.”
Earlier in the day, Belcastro said he had asked many of the migrants to wait just three hours before deciding whether to leave the island and venture further inland.
“I just asked them to give us three hours until I came up with a plan,” she said. “You’ve never heard of Martha’s Vineyard. This is a political move. These aren’t people trying to get freebies. Every single person, every single one of them, that’s old enough to understand, they’re like, can you get me a job? Can you get me a job?”
It was a bright, sunny Thursday morning and the group of Venezuelan men, women and children had woken up after spending the night in church. The DeSantis administration arranged flights for them to Massachusetts, just as other Republican governors have flown immigrants on buses or planes to Democratic-run states and cities.
The group of immigrants flown to Martha’s Vineyard Wednesday was part of the state’s “relocation program to transport illegal immigrants to places of refuge,” a DeSantis spokesman said.
The urgency outside the church was marked by a bright and sunny morning when a group of 50 refugees — men, women and children — from Venezuela stayed overnight after the DeSantis administration arranged flights for them to the island . Local officials, state elected officials and attorneys searched for the group’s housing, medical services and food Wednesday night.
As breakfast rolled into lunchtime, migrants, civil servants, lawyers and residents alike began setting up a buffet of donated food from at least five different island restaurants. There was more food than people knew how to handle – a testament to the great support from locals, a volunteer said.
Belcastro said she spoke to a man who said he had been away for two months and said his family relied on him to make money.
“He’s not looking for a giveaway. He wants to support his family. And they were lied to. This whole trip they have been lied to. So we have to do better. And when we’re here on the island, we’re going to do better,” she said.
Officials on the island said they were only given about 20 minutes’ notice before the migrants arrived. A statement from Martha’s Vineyard Airport said about 50 people arrived at 3:15 p.m. Wednesday, “to the best of our knowledge, from Venezuela … seeking shelter.”
“The group in question was provided with food, water and emergency shelter for the evening to stabilize them,” the statement said. “Two temporary shelters have been set up with additional space in case further arrivals occur.”
A spokesman for the Dukes County Emergency Management Association and an airport official did not immediately respond to requests for comment seeking to identify information about the planes.
Terry MacCormack, a spokesman for Gov. Charlie Baker, said in a statement Wednesday that the administration is in contact with local officials and is helping to arrange short-term housing.
“Currently, short-term shelters are being provided by local officials and the administration will continue to support those efforts,” he said.
DeSantis communications director Taryn Fenske confirmed in a statement Wednesday that the DeSantis government organized the flights to Massachusetts as part of the state’s “relocation program to transport illegal immigrants to safe havens,” the statement said.
“States like Massachusetts, New York and California will better facilitate the care of these individuals they have invited into our country by encouraging illegal immigration through their designation as ‘protective states’ and support for the Biden’s open borders policy create a government,” said Fenske.
The refugee, who helped set up tables and chairs at the church for the group of migrants to have lunch, said he will do whatever is available – cleaning doesn’t matter.
“We’re multi-talented,” he said.