WOODS HOLE, MASS. (WHDH) - A ferry trip, shuttle bus ride and military escort brought several dozen migrants from Venezuela to Joint Base Cape Cod on Friday, capping off a multi-state trek that originally brought the nearly 50 people from Texas to Florida to Martha’s Vineyard.
The migrants will be staying at the military base for the foreseeable future after state officials scrambled to find facilities for them, following their unannounced arrival at Martha’s Vineyard Airport on Wednesday.
Their latest trip to the Joint Base started in Edgartown, where volunteers had been housing and servicing the group since Wednesday afternoon, after the charter flights carrying them landed with only 20 minutes notice. By Friday morning, bags were packed and vans were loaded, bound for the Vineyard Haven Ferry.
Some of the migrants embraced and thanked the volunteers from the Parish Center before boarding buses. Many said they had been happy with the way they were treated and were grateful to be on the island, but some, as well as state leaders, said they felt the process of getting them to Martha’s Vineyard involved political trickery.
Some residents said that regardless of how the trip started and how the migrants arrived, making the group feel welcome was a priority throughout their stay.
“There’s been tremendous support from the island and tremendous generosity,” said Edgartown Town Administrator James Hagerty. “It’s been wonderful.”
The men, women and children boarded buses to leave the shelter in Edgartown before switching to a larger bus by the ferry, with assistance from the National Guard.
Though spirits were high on the ship, an immigration attorney who had been working with the migrants described how some had been uneasy about the latest leg of their journey.
“There were people (feeling) very anxious and very scared because the last time they listed to someone who said ‘trust me, we’re taking you here for this, that and this,’ they were lied to,” said Rachel Self.
With assurances, the group of migrants fully boarded the ship, soon reaching the coast before a short bus ride to JBCC, where they will live for the foreseeable future, with amenities and legal services available to them in addition to food and shelter.
Gov. Charlie Baker announced the Joint Base move in a statement earlier Friday morning, activating the 100 or so National Guardsmen to help transport the group and assist the relief efforts.
“We are grateful to the providers, volunteers and local officials that stepped up on Martha’s Vineyard over the past few days to provide immediate services to these individuals,” said Baker. “Our Administration has been working across state government to develop a plan to ensure these individuals will have access to the services they need going forward, and Joint Base Cape Cod is well equipped to serve these needs.”
“They want to be doing everything the right way,” Self said. “They’re so interested in being sure they’re doing everything correctly, that we want to make sure that we give them the resources to do that.”
Self also said that if some of the migrants wished to return to Martha’s Vineyard, they would be welcomed back. She said that several homeowners had expressed interest in opening up their homes to host them.
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