MARTHA’S VINEYARD — Local leaders say two plane landings here Thursday appear to be carrying Venezuelan nationals sent to Massachusetts by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who claims undocumented immigrants belong in progressive states.
The immigrants thought to be from Venezuela were flown by a chartered aircraft from Florida, Texas, or both, according to local officials.
A spokesperson for DeSantis confirmed to Fox News late Thursday that the people on the plans are whom the governor called “illegal immigrants.”
“Yes, Florida can confirm the two plans with illegal immigrants that arrived in Martha’s Vineyard today were part of the state’s relocation program to transport illegal immigrants to sanctuary destinations,” DeSantis’ communications director, Taryn Fenske, told Fox News Digital.
“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,” she told Fox .
The arrivals took locals by surprise. A receptionist at Martha’s Vineyard Community Services looked up late Wednesday afternoon to find a group of 50 people – men, women and children – standing in the center’s parking lot.
The people didn’t speak English but, with the help of a Spanish translator from the nearby Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, community services staff learned the group was from Venezuela and had been put on a plane with nothing but a brochure from the island’s service center.
They had walked the two miles or so from the local airport to the center.
“We COVID-tested them all. Everyone was negative. A little girl had a temperature so we separated her with her family. A lot of them were shellshocked and afraid,” said Janet Constantino, a therapist and nurse practitioner working at the center.
The crowd wouldn’t fit in the building so staffers gave them water and snacks in the parking lot while a plan was made.
Oct 2021:Ted Cruz wants to send migrants from the Mexican border to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket
Martha’s Vineyard residents help out
“This all started to perspire late (Wednesday) afternoon. They came unannounced,” said The Rev. Vincent G. “Chip” Seadale, rector of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Edgartown where the migrants were to sleep Wednesday night. “Since we had several years ago spearheaded efforts to help the homeless on the island, we opened our doors.”
Seadale, who has been monitoring the situation by phone from a clergy conference in North Carolina, said his church was providing an immediate place for the immigrants and reaching out to other churches Thursday.
“Overnight they can sleep on the pews or in the parish hall on the floor. We are in communication with the governor’s office for possible help but these are people just like me and you and they need care and attention.”
At about 7:15 pm Wednesday, state Rep. Dylan Fernandes, D-Falmouth, tweeted from the ferry: “Currently immigrants are being dropped off on Martha’s Vineyard by chartered flights from Texas. Many don’t know where they are. They say they were told they would be given housing and jobs. Islanders were given no notice but are coming together as a community to support them.”
Carla Cooper said volunteers ordered pizza, salad and soup to feed the people, aged 3 to adults in their 40s, “who had had no food or water since 6 am”
“People were just showing up (at the church) with food, rice and beans,” she said. “When something happens to our island, we come together to help. We are going to take care of these people.”
Cooper, head of the Democratic Council of Martha’s Vineyard, said, “It is disgusting and repulsive that these people were herded like cattle onto a plane, not told where they were going and our community was not notified. This is not a joke, this is insanely ridiculous.”
Martha’s Vineyard and its residents will take care of the strangers, she said, who all spoke Spanish and were using translation apps on their phones to express their gratitude.
Immigrants walked from Martha’s Vineyard Airport seeking help
Seadale said the arrivals simply walked out of Martha’s Vineyard Airport and went on foot “several miles” to the community service center — across from Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School — arriving just as the center was closing. They were taken to Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School for a snack, he said, before boarding buses that took them to the church.
St. Andrew’s staff has reached out to contact that works with the island’s food banks and the Greater Boston Food Bank about arranging meals for the unexpected arrivals, Seadale said.
“I think anyone hearing about this story who wants to help should pay attention to local news reports,” he said, “because we may need meals cooked in the next few days.”
Martha’s Vineyard officials were not sure where the plans came from
The Martha’s Vineyard Times is reporting that West Tisbury Town Administrator Jennifer Rand told selectmen, at their meeting late Wednesday afternoon, that only one plane had landed but more are expected. She and other officials were not sure where the plane or plans had originated.
In an interview with foxnews.com Wednesday evening, Taryn Fenske, DeSantis’ communications director, said, “Florida can confirm the two plans with illegal immigrants that arrived in Martha’s Vineyard today were part of the state’s relocation program to transport illegal immigrants to sanctuary destination .”
Former President Barack Obama owns a home on Martha’s Vineyard along with people in the entertainment industry.
DeSantis’ immigration policies include a plan to use $12 million to pay for the transportation of undocumented immigrants dropped in Florida from the US-Mexico border, the Tallahassee Democrat reported last month.
The Biden administration’s border security and immigration policies have become a favorite target for DeSantis and other Republicans nationwide, the paper reported. The debate ratcheted up earlier this year when two GOP governors — Greg Abbott of Texas and Doug Ducey of Arizona — called out Biden and sent busloads of migrants from their border states to New York City and Washington.
By late August, almost 8,000 migrants have arrived on state-sponsored bus trips, straining resources and humanitarian services of both cities, which have also sought assistance from the federal government.
Staff Writer Anne Brennan contributed to this report.
Contact Gwenn Friss at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter: @dailyrecipe.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism