WEST TISBURY, MASS. (WHDH) - Community members have been rushing to accommodate and treat dozens of migrants who arrived on Martha’s Vineyard with little notice on Wednesday.
The migrants were sent by Florida Governor Ron Desantis in protest to President Joe Biden’s border policies, sparking a humanitarian response as locals worked to provide food and shelter.
7NEWS sources said island officials were given about 20 minutes’ notice before the planes arrived sometime after 3 p.m. Sources also said the migrants arrived with bags as well as what appeared to be directions meant to help them try and find a local community services center. Of the 50 or so that were dropped off, only two people appeared to speak English.
“They are families, there were little girls playing in the playroom. These people came, they were hungry, thirsty, didn’t know where they were, this is an island community that came together to support them,” said state Rep. Dylan Fernandes, D-Falmouth.
After arriving, the migrants were reportedly brought to a nearby community center, where rapid COVID-19 tests were given, before being taken to a local church where they received additional support.
“We’re here for them and, honestly, I feel, personally, that weaponizing politics is an atrocious act,” said Dukes County Sheriff Robert Ogden. “We’re talking about human lives here, and to actually put these people in harm’s way, to travel all this way, to come to a place to prove that, what? There’s not services here? That we can’t support that? (It’s) atrocious.”
“I don’t want to say the incorrect thing, but quite frankly, somebody should have to be accountable for this,” Ogden said.
Families including small children were among the arrivals, with many not knowing where they were, according to Fernandes, who said on social media that some of the 50 migrants were told they would find housing and work where they were going.
“We’re gonna welcome these migrant families with compassion and humanity and, you know, it’s just really shameful that these families are being manipulated for political gain,” said state Sen. Julian Cyr, D-Truro.
A pastor for a church providing support to the migrants said that he had learned many of the migrants were from Venezuela and possibly Colombia, while adding that the office of Gov. Charlie Baker was also assisting the island’s response.
“The Baker-Polito Administration is in touch with local officials regarding the arrival of migrants in Martha’s Vineyard,” Governor’s Office Press Secretary Terry MacCormack said in a statement. “At this time, short-term shelter services are being provided by local officials, and the Administration will continue to support those efforts.”
The Dukes County Emergency Management Association said it was also part of the humanitarian response, putting out a call for volunteers on social media Wednesday night.
Fernandes provided another update on the situation at 9:30 p.m., noting that dozens of beds had been assembled for the group, in addition to other accommodations.
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