Sep 16, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Migrants flown to Martha's Vineyard offered shelter at Cape Cod military base

A group of three men and two women, all migrants, huddle together outside St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Edgarton.

A group of migrants huddle on a sidewalk in front of the St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Edgartown, Massachusetts. Two planes of migrants from Venezuela arrived suddenly Wednesday night on Martha's Vineyard. Photo: Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Nearly 50 Venezuelan migrants who were dropped off on the island of Martha’s Vineyard will be relocated to the Joint Base Cape Cod, an installation with vacant housing and access to social services, Massachusetts officials said.

Why it matters: The nation is watching as state and local officials figure out long-term plans to house the Venezuelan migrants, who were flown to the island in a pair of flights that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) claimed he organized.

  • Massachusetts officials had been weighing options for what to do if Republicans decided to bring migrants to the northeast. But they were caught off-guard when they were sent to Martha's Vineyard, not Boston.

The big picture: DeSantis appears to have joined Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) in a campaign against the immigration policies of Democrats and President Biden. They say transporting migrants to so-called sanctuary cities will force their Democratic counterparts to grapple with social-safety-net issues.

Details: The state said the move to Joint Base Cape Cod is voluntary. Massachussetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) also plans to activate up to 125 National Guard members to help respond to the needs of the asylum seekers.

  • The facility can provide space for legal and health care services, according to the Baker administration.

Zoom in: Church leaders, housing advocates, government officials and residents on Martha’s Vineyard have come together to provide shelter, food, clothing and other items for the migrants, but the island lacks the resources to support the group long-term. The migrants had been staying at a church in Edgartown.

  • Massachusetts is dedicating housing, health care and other resources on the joint base to the group who arrived, many without knowing they would end up on an island some 90 miles south of Boston

What they’re saying: “While Wednesday’s arrival on Martha’s Vineyard was unexpected, the extraordinary response was not,” said Public Safety and Security Secretary Terrence Reidy in a statement.

  • "The work of so many state and local partners exemplify the best values of our commonwealth, providing safe shelter, food and care for individuals that had been through a long harrowing journey.”

Flashback: The base was used as an emergency shelter for Louisiana residents fleeing the state after Hurricane Katrina and was set up as a field hospital for COVID-19 patients in 2020.

  • "Cape Codders, just like islanders, are in the business of welcoming people. We are going to take care of these people, be it here or on Cape Cod or elsewhere," state Sen. Julian Cyr, who represents the Cape and Islands, told reporters Thursday outside the church in Edgartown.
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