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Martha’s Vineyard migrant crisis continues as questions are raised about what’s next

Martha's Vineyard migrants
Migrants stand with their belongings in front of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Edgartown, Massachusetts. The Venezuelan asylum seekers were not given additional information before they arrived at Martha’s Vineyard. COURTESY OF RAY EWING VIA THE VINEYARD GAZETTE

Nearly fifty, mainly Venezuelan, asylum seekers were transported last week to Martha’s Vineyard by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis under the impression that they would be taken to Boston to find work. While reception on the island was swift and comprehensive, there are many unanswered questions about the next steps for the migrants, for the city of Boston and for the state. 

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker had the migrants relocated to Joint Base Cape Cod, a military base roughly 70 miles south of Boston, last Friday. The migrants are being provided with dormitory-like residences which Baker described as “safe temporary accommodation[s] appropriate for the needs of families and individuals,” according to a state press release. 

In response, the advocacy organizations Lawyers for Civil Rights and Alianza Americas filed a class-action lawsuit on Tuesday against DeSantis and other Florida officials on behalf of migrants, stating “numerous laws were brazenly violated to secure media headlines,” according to a LCR Boston press release.  

Meanwhile, the city of Boston wrote they are keeping a close eye on the situation and “have been preparing for more families to arrive in Boston.”

“City departments are working closely with state and federal governments and partners across the region to provide resources and coordination so families get the care and support they need,” the City’s statement read.

Sarang Sekhavat, political director at the Massachusetts Immigration and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, said his initial reaction to the move by DeSantis was “confusion.” 

“There is nothing about any of it that makes any sense,” he said.  

Sekhavat said another large challenge for migrants across the state, and for the migrants expected to come will be finding housing on such a short-term “emergency basis.” 

“We feel that the governor has been taking some really great action so far,” he said. “We would like to see the proposed additional funding and supplemental budget be a little bit higher.”

Sekhavat said the migrants that landed in Martha’s Vineyard are a few among many, as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has sent as many as 6,100 migrants on buses to Washington, D.C. and most recently sent fifty migrants directly to the vice president’s residence. 

In a press conference last Friday, Mayor Michelle Wu said Boston is prepared to work closely with state and federal partners to ensure funding to provide families with the resources they need if they do arrive in the city.

“Boston has been, for hundreds of years, a safe harbor for immigrants,” Wu said. “It’s a little bit heartbreaking to recognize at this moment in our country is one where so-called leaders are bragging that they are taking advantage of people…and leaving them in a completely unexpected foreign situation.”

Sekhavat said the main concern should be the well-being of the migrants, explaining how many of them are “asylum seekers who came to the U.S. legally to seek help.”“These are folks who, for the most part, are here because they’ve already been traumatized,” he said. “We’d like to make sure they get the assistance they need.”

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