After the unexpected arrival of nearly 50 migrants flown Wednesday into Martha’s Vineyard, local organizations and community members have been providing around-the-clock support.
“As we do with any shelter operation, we are focused on meeting the immediate needs of people, we are sheltering, and engaged in contingency planning if the situation changes,” according to a news release from the Dukes County, Mass., Emergency Management Association.
“We are grateful to the many local and neighboring community members who have reached out with offers of support,” the statement adds.
Residents across Martha’s Vineyard said they were scrambling to care for the immigrants, who arrived on two separate planes. The flights, which originated in San Antonio, Texas, were paid for by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, according to his office.
“Everything from beds to food to clothing to toothbrushes, toothpaste, blankets, sheets — I mean, we had some of it … but we did not have the numbers that we needed,” said Lisa Belcastro, who runs the island’s homeless shelter , in an interview with NPR.
Migrants arrived in a cloud of confusion
Most of the migrants who arrived at the New England summer vacation spot were from Venezuela, and many spoke little to no English. Local Spanish-speaking high school students were brought in to serve as translators.
Edgartown Police Chief Bruce McNamee told NPR that many of the migrants were confused as to why they were dropped off without warning.
“There is a lot of concern. We have talked to a number of people who’ve asked, ‘Where am I?’ And then us trying to explain where Martha’s Vineyard is has been a challenge,” McNamee said.
Elizabeth Folcarelli, chief executive of the nonprofit Martha’s Vineyard Community Servicestold The Associated Press she was wrapping up work for the day when she saw nearly 50 migrants carrying luggage and backpacks approaching her office.
The migrants, according to Folcarelli, carried red folders with brochures advertising the services of her organization.
“They were told that they would have a job. and they would have housing,” Folcarelli told the AP.
They thought they were headed toward sanctuary
Three migrants separately described to NPR how they were lured onto the plane with promises of help getting work. Each was told they were being flown to Boston and, once they arrived, they could more quickly get to work because they were told it is a “sanctuary city.”
Andres Duarte, a 30-year-old Venezuelan, told NPR he had recently crossed the border into Texas, and eventually went to a shelter in San Antonio.
A woman, who he and other migrants identified only as Perla, approached them outside the shelter. She made hotel arrangements for them, offered them food, and then got them on a plane.
In a statement to NPR, a spokesperson for Gov. DeSantis confirmed that the migrants were transported by Florida under a state program that was funded by the legislature earlier this year.
“States like Massachusetts, New York and California will better facilitate the care of these individuals who they have invited into our country by incentivizing illegal immigration,” the statement reads.
NPR’s Joel Rose contributed to this report.