(NewsNation) — Florida sent two planes carrying migrants to the tiny island of Martha’s Vineyard on Wednesday in an ongoing fight between states and the federal government over illegal immigration.
But Massachusetts State Rep. Dylan Fernandes (D) — whose constituents includes those of the wealthy island getaway — tells NewsNation’s “Rush Hour” Thursday the migrants were lied to.
“They were told they were going to be met here with jobs and housing. Some were told that they were going to different cities all over the country. At least one individual thought they were going to New York and some thought there were going to immigration appointments,” Fernandes said.
“None, it seems, were told there were going to the Vineyards and no heads up was given to the local officials here,” he continued.
Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office, on the other hand, says the flights were part of the state’s “relocation program” that intends to send migrants to “sanctuary destinations” such as New York, California and, in this case, Massachusetts.
In a statement, Taryn Fenske, the communications director for DeSantis, said, “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 governor earlier this year proposed sending migrants inland to “progressive” states, saying it wasn’t the responsibility of Florida to subsidize them.
Representative Fernandes said most of the women, men and children are originally from Venezuela. Immigration groups in Florida Thursday had denounced the news.
“Our initial reaction was shock that our governor continues to use immigrants as political pawns. We are just so desperate to see him end it. We want to be treated like human beings,” Yareliz Mendez-Zamora, a Florida Immigrant Coalition, said to NewsNation’s “Rush Hour” Thursday.
It comes as other states including Texas and Arizona are busing migrants to New York, Washington, D.C., and Chicago. But some appear to be on the move again, with one New York City official saying Wednesday migrants were being put back on buses and relocated to states including Florida.
Democratic Massachusetts state Sen. Julian Cyr called what the governor is doing a “cruel ruse” that’s about “manipulating vulnerable migrant families who are just seeking a better life.”
He likened it to segregationists tricking Black people into moving north to places like Hyannis, Massachusetts during the Civil Rights era. Segregationists did this, according to WAMU, to retaliate against Northern liberals, and show they weren’t able to accommodate all the people arriving in the area.
“We welcomed the people who came, the Black families who came to Hyannis, in the 1960s,” Cyr said. “And we’re welcoming these folks now.”
The island, which is a tight-knit community, according to Cyr, rallied around the migrants, with emergency officials, the local sheriff and community organizations greeting them, and making sure they received a meal and shelter, the senator said.
They were able to do this even though Cyr said there was “no advance notification to any officials on Martha’s Vineyard” about the planes’ arrival.
“We’re going to make sure that we’re treating these migrant families who are in a vulnerable situation with dignity, with respect, working with this in close partnership with the state to figure this out, but this is a really, really shameful tactic,” Cyr said.
Governors have been feuding with the Biden administration for months over what they say is an open border policy leading to record numbers of migrant encounters. Since October 2021, nearly 2 million migrants have been encountered at the southern border, well more than 1.7 million during the fiscal year that ran from October 2020 to September 2021.
Florida lawmakers allocated $12 million during this past legislative session to transport migrants to other states. In its statement, the governor’s office said the relocation program “both targets human smugglers found in Florida and preempts others from entering.”
As for the 48 migrants at Martha’s Vineyard, NewsNation has learned that volunteer groups has been able to find them temporary housing and food.
In the meantime, Texas (R) Governor Greg Abbott is praising the move, saying to NewsNation in a statement, they’re encouraging other governors to across the country to take the initiative.