MARTHA’S VINEYARD, Mass. (WFLA) — Massachusetts has activated its National Guard to provide humanitarian aide for the 50 migrants flown from Florida to Martha’s Vineyard Wednesday night.
On Friday morning, Governor Charlie Baker announced that a new shelter was constructed at Joint Base Cape Cod and 125 Massachusetts National Guardsmen were activated to support the humanitarian effort.
“The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency is coordinating efforts among state and local officials to ensure access to food, shelter and essential services for these men, women and children,” a release from the Governor’s office said.
Residents of Martha’s Vineyard gathered Friday morning to see off the migrants – most of whom were from Venezuela and Colombia – as they boarded a bus headed for the port. From there, they boarded a ferry to the military base.
Island residents have rallied around the migrants, who were flown in from Texas via Florida Wednesday night with no advance warning. Gov. DeSantis has since claimed responsibility for directing the two flights to Massachusetts.
Critics of the move have called the decision “cruel” and “a political stunt“. Some of the migrants have claimed they did not know where they were going, or were told they were going to a major city when they boarded the planes. Martha’s Vineyard, despite having wealthy residents, is a small vacation town in its off-season and is geographically isolated from the resources migrants need to secure asylum, housing or employment.
“While Wednesday’s arrival on Martha’s Vineyard was unexpected, the extraordinary response was not,” said Mass. Public Safety and Security Secretary Terrence Reidy. “The work of so many state and local partners exemplify the best values of our Commonwealth, providing safe shelter, food and care for individuals that had been through a long harrowing journey.”
Back in Florida, Gov. DeSantis’ Democratic opponent, Charlie Crist, sent a letter to Florida lawmakers on Friday requesting access to all records and communications related to the migrant flights under the state’s Sunshine Law.
In a press conference in Daytona on Friday afternoon, DeSantis said the migrants entered the U.S. in Texas and told immigration officials they were trying to come to Florida. Instead, DeSantis redirected them to Massachusetts.
“There will likely be more flights,” DeSantis said. “The legislature gave me 12 million dollars. We’re going to spend every penny of that to make sure we’re protecting the people of the state of Florida.”
Those $12 million came from federal COVID relief funds allocated to the Florida Department of Transportation.