Congressman William Keating, who represents Martha's Vineyard, spoke Thursday morning on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' move Wednesday to fly two planes carrying about 50 Venezuelan immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard.
Keating, a Democrat, said during an interview on WBZ NewsRadio that he received a call Wednesday afternoon from officials on the island "caught by surprise" by the migrants' arrival. They said two charter planes had landed and the people on board were given instructions to go to a place for housing and jobs, and it was actually "a vacant parking lot."
He applauded efforts by St. Andrews Episcopal Church and other organizations to make sure the migrants had shelter overnight. Now, he said, the goal is to move forward with resources from the Baker administration and the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency to help these people.
"It's unfortunate that a manufactured issue that was done by a governor in Florida, leveraging taxpayer money to compete against others for the national limelight," Keating said. "It's really a tale of two governors, Republican governors. One who's desperately seeking national attention with not even an original idea to try to exploit people from Venezuela who had no idea where they were going. And another governor in Massachusetts who's dealing with this... and helping people. It's quite a contrast."
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DeSantis on Wednesday flew two planes of immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard, escalating a tactic by Republican governors to draw attention to what they consider to be the Biden administration’s failed border policies.
Flights to the upscale island enclave in Massachusetts were part of an effort to “transport illegal immigrants to sanctuary destinations,” said Taryn Fenske, DeSantis’ communications director.
While DeSantis’ office didn’t elaborate on their legal status, many migrants who cross the border illegally from Mexico are temporarily shielded from deportation after being freed by U.S. authorities to pursue asylum in immigration court — as allowed under U.S law and international treaty — or released on humanitarian parole.
Baker said Wednesday that he is supporting officials on the island after learning of the situation.
"The Baker-Polito Administration is in touch with local officials regarding the arrival of migrants in Martha's Vineyard," Baker representative Terry MacCormack said in a statement. "At this time, short-term shelter services are being provided by local officials, and the Administration will continue to support those efforts."
Confirming that Florida had flown immigrants to Massachusetts, Fenske said it was "part of the state's relocation program to transport [undocumented immigrants] to sanctuary destinations," referring to municipalities that keep local law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration officials working to deport undocumented immigrants.
She said Massachusetts and other such states "will better facilitate the care of these individuals," claiming the immigrants were "invited into our country" through political positions, including "the Biden Administration's open border policies."