Fifty or so migrants sent to the wealthy island of Martha’s Vineyard in the northeastern United States as part of a political battle over immigration will be temporarily housed at a military base not far from there, the governor of Massachusetts said Friday.
The migrants, mostly Venezuelans and including children, arrived Wednesday at Martha’s Vineyard, a Democratic stronghold and popular vacation spot for the country’s political elite.
They had been put on board flights from Texas which the Republican governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, says he chartered.
Despite local mobilization to help the new arrivals, the island is “not equipped to provide sustainable accommodation, and state officials developed a plan to deliver a comprehensive humanitarian response,” said a statement from the administration of Governor Charlie Baker, a Republican.
State authorities on Friday offered to move the migrants, on a voluntary basis, to temporary accommodation at the nearby Joint Base Cape Cod.
“Families will not be separated,” the statement said, noting that the base had previously served as an emergency shelter and that the migrants would have access to care and legal services.
According to local media, the migrants were on their way to the base by midday Friday.
Some of them had said they had not known they were being sent to an island.
Local Democrat legislator Julian Cyr called for an investigation.
“Whether or not this meets the legal threshold for human trafficking, this meets the moral threshold of human trafficking,” he told local television, adding that he hoped the Department of Justice would look into the incident.
Sending migrants to Democratic strongholds has become a political cudgel for the American right as a means of denouncing President Joe Biden’s immigration policy, which they say has allowed undocumented migrants to cross the border with Mexico in large numbers.
It is also a way to try to place immigration at the center of the campaign for the midterm elections in November.
On Thursday morning, two buses carrying migrants arrived near the official residence of Vice President Kamala Harris in Washington, a place chosen on purpose because she is overseeing the explosive issue of immigration for the White House. They had been sent by Texas’s Republican Governor Greg Abbott.
The White House on Friday again slammed the Republican governors’ tactics towards people who have fled the socialist regime in Venezuela.
“These were children. They were moms. They were fleeing communism. And what did Governor DeSantis and Governor Abbott do to them? They use them as political pawns, treating them like chattel in a cruel, premeditated political stunt,” said White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre.
“These are the kinds of tactics we see from smugglers in places like Mexico and Guatemala. And for what? A photo op?” she said.
But DeSantis shot back by mocking the fact that the migrants had been transferred off the wealthy island.
“By the way, they already bussed them out. They said, ‘We want everyone. No one’s illegal.’ And they’re gone within 48 hours,” he said.