The White House has condemned Republicans’ transfer of 50 Venezuelan migrants to a wealthy US island as a “cruel stunt”.
Migrants who were flown to the affluent US island of Martha’s Vineyard this week in what critics denounced as a “cruel political stunt” by Republican lawmakers will be transferred to a military base, Massachusetts state officials said.
About 50 migrants, including about half a dozen children, boarded buses on Friday to go to the Cape Cod ferry, where Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said they would be temporarily housed at Joint Base Cape Cod.
They will receive dormitory-style accommodation, food and services, including health care and access to counseling, Baker said in a statement, adding that 125 National Guard members will be activated to help with the relief effort.
“We are grateful to the vendors, volunteers and local officials who have turned up on Martha’s Vineyard over the past few days to provide immediate services to these individuals,” the Republican governor said.
The move brought tears to some of the residents of Martha’s Vineyard, who had volunteered to house the migrants in a church for two nights.
“I want them to have a good life,” said Lisa Belcastro, who helped organize cribs and supplies at St. Andrews Episcopal Church, nestled between expensive white clapboard houses in Edgartown.
“I want them to come to America and be hugged. Everyone wants to work.”
The group was flown to Martha’s Vineyard without warning Wednesday night, as part of an escalating effort by Republican governors to draw attention to what they say US President Joe Biden has failed to secure the US-Mexico border amid record attempts.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is running for re-election in November, has taken ownership of the transportation of migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, although the legal basis for the Florida government to round up migrants in another state remained unclear .
The migrants said they were recently admitted to the United States on an accelerated permit known as humanitarian parole after fleeing Venezuela and were staying at an animal shelter in San Antonio, Texas.
Rachel Self, a Boston immigration attorney who provided legal counsel for some of the migrants, said they were lured onto planes under false pretenses.
“They were told that there was a surprise gift for them and that jobs and homes would be waiting for them when they arrived,” Self told reporters during a Thursday news conference.
“That was obviously a sadistic lie,” she said.
“Not only did those responsible for this stunt know that there was no housing or work waiting for the migrants, they also made a conscious choice not to call a single agency on Martha’s Vineyard so that even the most basic human needs could not be addressed.”
The White House called the episode a “cruel, deliberate political stunt” by Republican leaders.
“Why else would Gov. DeSantis have spent the time chartering a flight to take migrants out of another state…hiring a videographer to film that flight, but not bothered to let Massachusetts authorities know.” that migrant children in need of food and shelter would end up on their doorstep?” White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Friday.
She added that the Republican governors of Texas and Florida are interested in creating “political theater” rather than finding solutions that would help migrant families.
The flights to Martha’s Vineyard follow a bus program by Republican governors of Texas and Arizona that has sent more than 10,000 migrants to Democrat-controlled cities of Washington, DC, New York and Chicago since April.
On Thursday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott dispatched two buses carrying about 100 migrants to Vice President Kamala Harris’ home in the US capital.