The chief executive of Martha’s Vineyard Community Services was wrapping up work when she looked outside to see 48 strangers at her office with luggage, backpacks and red folders that included brochures for her organization.
The Venezuelan migrants who were flown to the wealthy Massachusetts island from San Antonio on Wednesday by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said they were told they were going to Boston.
DeSantis took from the playbook of a fellow Republican, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, by surprising Democratic strongholds with large influxes of migrants and providing little or no information.
“They were told that they would have a job and they would have housing,” said Elizabeth Folcarelli, who leads Martha’s Vineyard Community Services and described the scramble for shelter as a “huge challenge.”
Julio Henriquez, an attorney who met with several migrants, said they “had no idea of where they were going or where they were.”
Two flights to Martha’s Vineyard stopped in the Florida Panhandle, Henriquez said. While on board, migrants got brochures and maps of Massachusetts.
An unsigned letter told migrants to notify U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services of address changes, though U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is actually responsible for tracking migrants, Henriquez said. “This is terrible advice,” he said.
Many immigrants have appointments with ICE on Monday in San Antonio. Others were ordered to report to immigration authorities in two weeks to three months in cities including Philadelphia and Washington.
U.S. officials told immigration attorneys that required check-ins would be postponed, Henriquez said. Homeland Security officials didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.
In San Antonio, a Latina woman approached migrants at a city-run shelter and put them up at a nearby La Quinta Inn, where she visited daily with food and gift cards, Henriquez said. She promised jobs and three months of housing in Washington, New York, Philadelphia and Boston.
The woman, who introduced herself to migrants as Perla, promised jobs, housing and support for their immigration cases, said Oren Sellstrom of Lawyers for Civil Rights, which offered free consultations.
The city of San Antonio was unaware of the flights, said Maria Villagomez, deputy city manager.
Pedro Luis Torrelaba, 36, said he was promised work, food and housing. He thought he was going to New York.
“I am not a victim,” he said Friday, expressing gratitude to residents of Martha’s Vineyard for their hospitality. “I simply feel misled because they told a lie and it has come to nothing.”
The migrants were being moved voluntarily Friday to a military base on nearby Cape Cod. Republican Gov. Charlie Baker said he would activate up to 125 National Guard members to assist the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.
DeSantis said Friday that most migrants intended to come to Florida and that the trip to Martha’s Vineyard was voluntary. He did not address the migrants’ claims that they were told they were going elsewhere.
Florida’s governor defended picking up migrants in Texas and vowed to continue transportation to immigrant-friendly “sanctuary” jurisdictions.
“Our view is that you’ve got to deal with it at the source, and if they’re intending to come to Florida or many of them are intending to come to Florida, that’s our best way to make sure they end up in a sanctuary,” he said.
Texas has bused about 8,000 migrants to Washington since April, including more than 100 Thursday to Vice President Kamala Harris’ home. It also has bused about 2,200 to New York and 300 to Chicago.
Arizona has bused more than 1,800 migrants to Washington since May, but has kept officials on the receiving end informed of the plans. The city of El Paso, Texas, has sent at least 1,135 migrants on 28 buses to New York since Aug. 23 and, like Arizona, shares passenger rosters and other information.
Last week, a 2-year-old who arrived in New York from Texas was hospitalized for dehydration and a pregnant woman on the same bus was in severe pain, according to advocates and city officials.
Volunteer groups often wait hours for buses arriving from Texas in a designated space of Manhattan’s Port of Authority Bus Terminal. They rely on tipsters for help.
“It’s a problem because we don’t know when the buses are coming, how many buses are coming, if anyone on these buses has medical conditions that they will need help with, if they need a wheelchair,” said Manuel Castro, commissioner of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. “We at least want to know that so that we can best help people as they arrive.”
A contractor that Texas hired to bus migrants signed an agreement that prohibits them from talking to New York officials, Castro said.
Some fathers have arrived in New York while their spouses and children were sent to Washington, said Ilze Thielmann, a volunteer director with TLC NYC, a group working to reunite them.
Illinois Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker said his administration has reached out to Texas but gets no information. The first migrants arrived at Chicago’s Union Station from Texas on Aug. 31.
Abbott’s office dismissed complaints about lack of coordination and keeping cities guessing about the governor’s next moves as he tries to stoke opposition to President Joe Biden’s border policies.
“Instead of complaining about fulfilling their sanctuary city promises, these Democrat hypocrites should call on President Biden to do his job and secure the border — something the president continues failing to do,” spokeswoman Renae Eze said Thursday.
Arizona has been working since May through the Regional Center for Border Health, which runs clinics for low-income patients in Yuma. Several days a week, a bus heads east from a clinic office in suburban Somerton.
Amanda Aguirre, the health care provider’s CEO, said she told Republican Gov. Doug Ducey’s staff that she wouldn’t participate without close coordination. Arizona established information-sharing protocols from the start with Carecen, a nonprofit group that assists migrants in Washington, Aguirre said.
“I will never allow people just being dropped in the street because that’s what I’m trying to prevent here in Yuma, being just dropped in the street,” Aguirre said.
Some migrants seem unaffected by the chaos.
Cleiver Rodriguez of Venezuela said he appreciated the free ride from Texas to New York, where he came looking for work.
“I don’t have any kind of opinion because at least they helped me get here,” Rodriguez, 24, said as he left a shelter.
Republished with permission of the Associated Press.
September 17, 2022 at 11:18 am
My almost died during the forced displacement to Martha’s Vineyard. Pray for all of us who had to endure this far right political theatre, crime against humanity. We were used. We were abused. Also vote for Charlie…….
September 17, 2022 at 11:23 am
Hey Julio? What kind of reception did Venezuelans get when they fled to Colombia? How about you go back home and overthrow your government instead of running away like a P**** Boy? You will be like many here in Florida driving your car around with your “SOS VENEZUELA” plastered on your car. Do something about it.
September 17, 2022 at 1:01 pm
You are a crude culo..an uncivilized gringo like mini Hitler pulling far right political stunts with unwilling people. You people gonna pay a price tu verga. Mama la penga pendejo!!! Tu madre es una perra repugnante!!
Don’t do it
September 18, 2022 at 1:39 am
“How about you go back home and overthrow your government”
How about you stop giving advice on that Ashli “door girl” Babbitt. You all didn’t do so good lol
September 17, 2022 at 12:58 pm
Maybe your next alias name can be Sybil’s Twin.
Don’t Look Up
September 17, 2022 at 12:07 pm
Florida taxpayer money subsidizing Texas refugees?
Picking off people in a strip mall parking lot……It sounds like Perla was a paid DeSantis mule!
Let’s find out the cost of this political stunt?
September 17, 2022 at 12:56 pm
I believe it was $600,000 and every penny well worth it! The failed Biden Administration has been revealed as hypocrites and incompetent.
September 17, 2022 at 1:03 pm
Wake up and stop being a political hack.
The Biden administration HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH WRITING LEGISLATION OR FABRICATING LAW.
Congress has the sole responsibility of writing new immigration law……AND DESANTIS HAS MORE THAN A HANDFUL OF REPUBLICAN WINGNUTS IN WASHINGTON WHO COULD BE WRITING IMMIGRATION LEGISLATION,
September 17, 2022 at 1:56 pm
That’s kind of my take as well. This problem goes back 60 years at least. Maybe if this clown spent less time grandstanding and more time solving actual problems everyone would be better off.
September 17, 2022 at 1:03 pm
Mama la verga puta!!!!!! Tu governor es un bastardo!!!
September 17, 2022 at 3:51 pm
Concerned about cost now? Where have you been since Joe Biden has been President and the enormous cost of caring for well over two million and coming illegals? Now you suddenly care.
September 17, 2022 at 1:52 pm
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September 17, 2022 at 1:53 pm
Little Trump is following his heroes playbook. Do as I please and deal with it later. He sent our law officers to Texas to patrol the border with no direction as to what they were to do. Now he has sent planes to Texas, brought these folks to Florida then transported them out of the State. All of this at who’s expense? I guess Trump had Putin who loved him, Desantis wanted a relationship a little closer to home.
September 17, 2022 at 2:10 pm
Kathy, what do you think the cost is to all of us legal citizens of this country to support over 2 million that have come so far? Where was your concern then? All of the BLUE BLOWHARDS were fine with the invasion of Texas, Arizona, and Florida. Now we involve the so called sanctuary cities and the BLOWHARDS lose their minds.
September 17, 2022 at 3:21 pm
September 17, 2022 at 3:52 pm
Don’t steal my saying you BLUE BLOWHARD.
September 17, 2022 at 3:16 pm
Desantis misused Florida Covid money to fly human beings out of Texas. “Legal citizens” of Florida weren’t supporting them. “Legal citizens” of Florida ARE supporting Texas.
Is this part of Desatan’s “Full Armor of God” costume? Real fighter pilots got pretty p!$$3D-off when he pretended to be one of them. This playing dress-up act could be a REAL PROBLEM for him!
September 17, 2022 at 3:54 pm
What fighter pilots are pissed? Name them. Give me a reference to whatever article you read. Chances are most US fighter pilots support DeSantis. Ask me how I know.
September 17, 2022 at 4:05 pm
Remember DeSantis served. Did Charlie or how about Biden?
September 17, 2022 at 6:02 pm
👆 Impeach is now a terrorist for billionaires like Trump. By God you people have not one bit of sense..
September 17, 2022 at 4:18 pm
Impeach Biden, I have always been concerned. Please, tell me how Desantis is keeping our State safer and saving our “legal citizen’s” tax dollars to help our “legal citizens” by spending our money to transport people from Texas to Florida. On the ground long enough to be lied to about jobs and housing, then spent our money to fly them up North. He is, literally, going out of his way to waste our money. Had they already been in Florida it might be a different story, yet he imported the illegals at my expense. At 67 with Cancer and Multiple Sclerosis, I receive less than $15,000 in Social Security (worked all my life) a year and $40 a month in food stamps. You bet your ass I’m pissed that illegals get more than I do. That is not the point. The point is Desantis is playing games for the Nation with my tax dollars.
September 17, 2022 at 4:37 pm
Biden is playing games with yours and my tax dollars on a national scale. These migrants were headed to Florida. DeSantis kept them going towards BLUE SANCTUARIES. I support what he, Abbot, and the Governor of Arizona are doing. Ask yourself this, why isn’t there a border problem at the California / Mexico border? The answer will surprise you.
September 17, 2022 at 4:39 pm
By the way Kathy I wish you well in your cancer fight and MS battle. A good friend of mine’s wife was diagnosed with MS over 30 years ago. She is still going strong.
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