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Venezuelan migrants flown to Martha’s Vineyard; Was it legal?

(Photo Courtesy of WBUR) “A Venezuelan mother holds her frightened daughter as they were flown to Martha’s Vineyard by Governor Ron DeSantis (R, FL).”

Jose Zamora
Connector Editor

On September 14th, a chartered flight from Texas arrived in Martha’s Vineyard carrying 50 Venezuelan migrants. The plane promptly dropped the migrants off on the island and left leaving the residents of Martha’s Vineyard to care for them.

Ron DeSantis, the Republican Governor of Florida, took responsibility for the relocation the same day. In a statement sent to several news outlets, he said “States like Massachusetts, New York, and California will better facilitate the care of these individuals whom they have invited into our country by incentivizing illegal immigration”.

It is alleged that DeSantis lured migrants from Texas and Florida into agreeing to go with them to Boston where they would receive help. With the help of Greg Abbott, Governor of Texas, DeSantis has been sending migrants from their states to many different major cities across the country to garner awareness for one of their landmark issues: strengthening the southern border.

All summer Republican-dominated states, especially those on the southern border, have been sending undocumented immigrants to Democrat-controlled states because of how lenient deportation procedures are there, believing that it sends a dangerous message to immigrants.

Jason Carter, an adjunct professor for the College of Fine Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences at UMass Lowell, believes that the move was done to bring attention to illegal immigration.

“Was it malicious? I do not know. Was it designed for maximum political exposure? I would say absolutely… There was no functional reason for him to do that other than the amount of media attention that that garnered… we have seen politicians on both sides of the aisle try and bring a greater level of media scrutiny or attention to an issue, and they do it through marketing,” said Carter.

Migrants were sent to cities such as Chicago, Washington D.C., New York City and Boston. These cities are known as “sanctuary cities.” States, constitutionally, are not compelled to enforce federal law so many Democratic states have passed laws to resist the deportation process. In a bid for law enforcement to gain the trust of undocumented immigrants, law enforcement in these cities is not allowed to ask about residency status when responding to an emergency. This encourages undocumented people to report crimes, without having to fear being deported.

Many Republicans view sanctuary laws as “incentivizing illegal immigration” and bad-faith posturing. They believe many of the northern, liberal states do not have to bear the burden of immigration since they are not as close to the border as they are.

This time, the stunt garnered more attention because of the destination chosen. Martha’s Vineyard is a nationally famous vacation spot, known for its picturesque beaches and its affluent residents, such as Vice President Kamala Harris who has her second home there.

The residents quickly got together and began to help the migrants by providing them with food and shelter at a local church. Many feel that this was an unethical political stunt and are upset that Governor DeSantis would use human beings as political pawns. They also accuse DeSantis and Abbott of lying or misleading the immigrants as to where they were going, but that claim has been denied by DeSantis’ team.

Days after they arrived, the migrants were sent to Joint Base in Cape Cod and Boston to find adequate housing and employment. On September 20th, a group of the migrants filed a lawsuit against DeSantis accusing him of misleading them and offering them jobs and services if they went to Martha’s Vineyard. The Lawyers for Civil Rights, an organization dedicated to fighting for people of color and immigrants, is helping them with the case.

“Ron DeSantis is very hesitant to engage in, in sort of political posturing, there is always the chance to say that [the lawsuit] probably doesn’t have legs, but a lawsuit’s going to bring a lot of attention, and maybe this is going to bring people’s eyes over to the other side,” said Carter.

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