JOINT BASE CAPE CODE — Shortly after noon Friday, a group of migrants, most of them originally from Venezuela, arrived at their new temporary home on Cape Cod after an unexpected arrival on Martha’s Vineyard on Wednesday.
Officials have been working to house, feed and support the group of about 50 migrants since they arrived on the wealthy Massachusetts island on Wednesday afternoon.
Amid a firestorm of criticism from advocates and political opponents, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis took credit for chartering the two flights and pledged to continue the relocation program on Friday.
A spokesman for DeSantis said the migrants were moved to Martha’s Vineyard as part of the governor’s “promise to keep undocumented migrants in progressive states.”
His arrival comes after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey criticized the Biden administration’s immigration and border security policies and moved migrants to New York City, Chicago and Washington. By the end of August, nearly 8,000 migrants had been moved on state-sponsored bus trips, straining the cities’ resources.
Biden on Thursday called the move reckless and un-American. “Instead of working with us on solutions, Republicans are playing politics with human beings, using them as props,” Biden said.
DeSantis said Friday he was “perplexed” to hear Biden was planning a federal response: “It’s only when you have 50 illegal aliens end up in a very rich, wealthy enclave that (Biden) decides to fight that,” he said.
BACKGROUND:DeSantis says 50 people transported to Martha’s Vineyard are ‘illegal immigrants’
WHAT’S NEXT?Bus immigrants from Texas, Arizona to US cities and now Chicago
On Friday, the group moved to Joint Base Cape Cod, a facility that is home to five military commands, where state and local officials coordinated food, shelter and essential services with volunteers, the Air Force Management Association said. Dukes County Emergencies in a statement.
Here’s what we know:
Migrants were ‘lied to over and over again’, says immigration lawyer
Migrants arriving on Martha’s Vineyard were falsely told there would be jobs and housing waiting for them upon arrival, an immigration attorney told reporters Thursday.
“The accounts of the migrants who arrived last night make it clear that they were lied to over and over again,” Rachel Self said.
The migrants were offered jobs, free housing and $50 gift cards, according to Domingo García, president of the League of United Latin American Citizens, a Washington-based civil rights group.
He said they were handed red folders with what turned out to be fake documents promising jobs and housing, then flown to Martha’s Vineyard on private charter planes, stopping at least once along the way.
FOLLOW THE FLIGHT:Florida Governor DeSantis brought 50 migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard
Julio Henriquez, a lawyer who met with several migrants, said they “had no idea where they were going or where they were.”
Many of the migrants have appointments with ICE Monday morning in Texas, Washington and D.C., Self said, appointments they are worried about missing.
U.S. officials told immigration lawyers that the required registrations would be postponed, Henriquez said. Homeland Security officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.
Buses, ferry bring group to Cape Cod
The group left a church where they had been sheltering Friday and boarded buses bound for the Vineyard Haven ferry terminal. Police and state emergency management officials escorted the group through a crowd of people. As the migrants passed flashing cameras, they stopped to say goodbye to the islanders who welcomed them.
At the ferry terminal, Everlides Dela Hoz said he didn’t know where he was going. Dela Hoz traveled from Venezuela with her husband and 25-year-old son. On Friday, she said she was told there would be beds and it would be safe and that she was promised help finding jobs.
After a short passage to the mainland, the migrants arrived at the Woods Hole Station of the Steamship Authority. Spectators erupted in applause as their bus, led by a state police escort, left the ship.
State Rep. Dylan Fernandes, a Democrat, told reporters at the Steamship Authority dock in Woods Hole that migrants had the option of going to the base, but he did not know the exact number of people who had arrived Friday.
“This is what good government really looks like, what compassionate government really looks like,” Fernandes said. “I couldn’t be prouder of the people of Martha’s Vineyard and Cape Cod and I couldn’t be prouder to have a statewide team pull this together so quickly. We’re a community that came together to give them the resources they needed, it’s have an outpouring of support from all over to help.”
Month:Cubans and Haitians are fleeing to the US in historic numbers. These crises are fueling migration.
Shelter, humanitarian support at Joint Base Cape Cod
Gov. Charlie Baker’s office announced plans Friday morning to provide new shelter and humanitarian support at the base, located on the Upper Cape, in cooperation with the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency and other officials. The governor said he would activate up to 125 members of the Massachusetts National Guard to help.
At Joint Base Cape Cod, migrants will find respite in dormitory-style accommodations. Emergency management officials said there will be spaces for both singles and families, and that families will be kept together. They will be provided with clothing and toiletries and food.
Officials said they will also have access to legal and health care services, as well as mental health and crisis counseling services. Interpreters will be available to assist with communication.
Joint Base Cape Cod is a 22,000-acre facility and designated emergency shelter in Barnstable County. The National Guard, Air Force and Coast Guard use it for training exercises. It is the only Coast Guard aviation installation in the Northeast and polices the waters from New Jersey to the Canadian border.
Little information provided about flights
DeSantis drew from the playbook of fellow Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, surprising Democratic-led cities and states with large influxes of migrants. Providing little or no information is part of the plan.
Florida Governor DeSantis:50 people transported to Martha’s Vineyard are ‘illegal immigrants’
Both flights from San Antonio to Martha’s Vineyard made stops in the Florida Panhandle, Julio Henriquez said. The Miami Herald reported that the flights originated in Texas with stops in Florida and North Carolina, citing information from flight tracking company FlightAware.
Meanwhile, questions are being raised about whether the DeSantis administration was authorized to move migrants out of their state. The Miami Herald reported that DeSantis’ comments at a news conference Thursday suggested “his efforts prevented these migrants from ever reaching Florida.” According to the state’s budget, the DeSantis administration can only “transport unauthorized aliens from this state,” the Herald reported.
Biden: Republicans are ‘playing politics with human beings’
Some Republicans, including Stephen Miller, a chief architect of former President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, celebrated the surprise flights while critics derided them as inhumane.
Column:Ron DeSantis’ Martha’s Vineyard stunt cruelly uses migrants as human pawns, helping no one.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre accused DeSantis and Abbott of abandoning migrants on Martha’s Vineyard and called the incident “a cruel political stunt” on Thursday.
President Joe Biden echoed that sentiment hours later by criticizing Republican officials at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute gala.
“Instead of working with us on solutions, Republicans are playing politics with human beings, using them as props,” Biden said. “What they’re doing is just wrong. It’s un-American. It’s reckless.”
Contributing: N’dea Yancey-Bragg, Rick Jervis and Rebecca Morin, USA TODAY; Bruce Bowman, Pensacola News-Journal; Gwenn Friss, Cape Cod Times; Associated Press