It’s the latest in a series of moves by Republican governors to protest what they say are insufficient federal efforts to secure the southern border. Located on the Massachusetts coast and long known as a luxurious summer destination for wealthy vacationers, Martha’s Vineyard provided an unusual and unexpected place for immigrants to be sent.
“We’re not a sanctuary state, and it’s better to go to a sanctuary jurisdiction and, yes, let’s help ease that traffic so you can go to greener pastures,” DeSantis said Thursday. Claiming credit for sending both planes to the island. “Every community in America should share the burden. It shouldn’t fall on a few red states.”
Rachel Rollins, the U.S. attorney for Massachusetts, told reporters Thursday that she would speak with members of the Justice Department about sending DeSantis immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard, saying she did not have enough information to say whether he broke any laws in doing so. He added that their first priority was to ensure that visitors were treated with respect.
Massachusetts State Sen., a Democrat representing Martha’s Vineyard. According to Julian Cyr, 50 migrants arrived in Martha’s Vineyard on Wednesday in two flights. Both flights arrived shortly after 3 p.m., Cyr said, and white vans took the migrants to Martha’s Vineyard Community Services.
Edgartown City Administrator James Hagerty told CNN Thursday that officials believe all of the evacuees are from Venezuela, and a local fire chief said the evacuees included seven families with four children ages 3 to 8. .
“These immigrants were not pre-announced to anyone in Martha’s Vineyard or Massachusetts as far as I know,” Cyr said.
Municipal and state officials are in touch about next steps, but Cyr stressed that the focus right now is on supporting the immigrants who have arrived.
In addition to the response efforts of local residents on the island, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency is expected to be on the ground to coordinate efforts.
DeSantis’ claim drew strong reaction from Democratic officials in Florida and the White House.
“Even for Ron DeSantis, this is a new low,” Florida Democratic Party Chairman Manny Diaz said in a statement. “There’s nothing DeSantis won’t do to score political points, and no one he won’t hurt.”
Charlie Crist, the Democratic candidate for Florida governor, said in a statement: “This is another political stunt that hurts our state. Tonight, the 4.5 million immigrants who call Florida home will wonder if they are next.”
White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre accused the governors of using immigrants as “political pawns” and called their actions “a cruel, orchestrated political stunt.”
Immigrants released from government custody often move to other cities in the United States as they pursue their immigration process. It is not clear whether the immigrants who came to Martha’s Vineyard knew where they were going.
Locals should take action
Despite the unannounced arrivals, some of the island’s residents worked quickly to provide some vital services.
Officials on Martha’s Vineyard say they are working with a coalition on the island to provide “shelter, food and care to individuals” who arrived on the island Wednesday, according to a statement from the county emergency management association.
The Edgartown Police Department asked migrants who arrived Wednesday not to need more supplies and to refrain from dropping off extra supplies to keep traffic flowing.
A media representative for Martha’s Vineyard Social Services, which helps coordinate services for immigrants, praised the community’s response, saying some local restaurants are offering free meals.
Resources on the program stand include coordinating food, clothing and interpreter services, the representative said.
The migrants slept at St. Andrew’s Church on Wednesday night, which often helps provide housing for those in need, the representative explained.
The representative said some of the evacuees were cold Thursday morning and the service center helped bring more clothing.
Meanwhile, Haggerty said on Thursday that migrants were told they would be offered jobs and housing on the island before they arrived.
“They were given social service packets before they got off the plane,” he said, adding that he did not know which third party provided the information packets to the migrants.
Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency is participating in the response to the migrant influx. It has been updated with additional reporting.
CNN’s Chenelle Woody, Jessica Prater, Steve Contorno, Kristina Sgueglia, Carol Alvarado, Carolyn Sung, Melissa Alonso and Kate Sullivan contributed to this report.
“Lifelong social media lover. Falls down a lot. Creator. Devoted food aficionado. Explorer. Typical troublemaker.”