Florida Flies Migrants to Martha’s Vineyard


Photo courtesy of Chris Brignola on Unsplash.com

Amanda Salanitri, Staff Writer

On Wednesday, September 14th, two planes were flown to Martha’s Vineyard transporting an estimated 50 migrants in search of asylum. However, claims arose that the migrants were misled on the voluntary voyage, and communication between southern and northern states has not been clear regarding the transportation of individuals between them. Within the past few weeks, more details of this event have raised many concerns among state-wide and national officials relating to illegal immigration and facilitating the thousands of migrants that enter the southern border of the United States every day. 

Governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, has been vocal on the recent situation, including details about the intentions of transporting migrants from southern US states to cities in the northern part of the country. In recent months, Florida has been monitoring the movement of migrants within Texas and working to offer free transport to other places, with DeSantis saying about 40% of the migrants had planned on going to Florida. Similarly, the transportation of migrants to Martha’s Vineyard originated in a shelter in San Antonio, Texas, and was carried out by Florida. 

The migrants, most of who were from Venezuela, were recorded to have traveled from San Antonio to Crestview Florida. This was a 45-minute stop for fuel and lavatory services, which Okaloosa County estimated was a cost of $4,800. From there, one of the two planes traveled to Spartanburg, South Carolina, and the other to Charlotte, North Carolina. Finally, both planes then landed on the Massachusetts island of Martha’s Vineyard, in Edgartown. 

However, some discrepancies have arisen from how this interstate journey occurred. Upon arriving at Martha’s Vineyard, migrants told interviewers, such as the executive director of Lawyers for Civil Rights, Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, that they were enlisted for flights by four or five organizers that approached them in San Antonio. Furthermore, some migrants say they had been misled about job opportunities and housing at their destination, as well as being given misinformation regarding their court hearings, an important and sometimes years-long process for those migrating to the US and in need of immigration status to stay in the country.

DeSantis disputed the claims of misleading the migrants, saying instead that the flights were voluntary. To expand on the issue of handling the level of migrants in southern states, DeSantis said Florida has enough infrastructure to keep transporting migrants by bus or plane and that he plans to spend all of the $12 million allocated by the Florida legislature for the program.

Taryn M. Fenske, the communications director for Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida vocalized her support for this programs, saying, “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 through their designation as ‘sanctuary states’ and support for the Biden administration’s open border policies,”

The officials at Martha’s Vineyard, however, state that the arrival of the migrants on the 16th was unexpected, and that they were scrambling to provide arrangements for everyone. While the communication between the southern states’ plans for migrants and the northern cities in which they are transported has been poor in this situation, officials in Massachusetts have combined efforts and compiled a multitude of resources for the population in Martha’s Vineyard. Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker said the state will deploy up to 125 National Guard members to assist. Additionally, in the days after the migrants have arrived in Martha’s Vineyard, the governor says some of the travelers are choosing to relocate to Joint Base Cape Cod, which allows them services related to healthcare, mental health, and crisis counseling.

The migrants have since filed a lawsuit, accusing DeSantis and other state officials of carrying out a “deliberate, fraudulent and illegal scheme” in which vulnerable individuals were used as political props.