Florida Gov. DeSantis vows to continue relocating migrants after 2 flights sent to Martha's Vineyard

JOINT BASE CAPE COD — Shortly after noon Friday, a group of migrants, mostly originating from Venezuela, arrived at their new temporary home on Cape Cod after an unexpected arrival Wednesday on Martha's Vineyard.

Officials have been working to house, feed and support the group of about 50 migrants since they arrived on the wealthy Massachusetts island Wednesday afternoon.

Amid a firestorm of criticism from advocates and political opponents, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis took credit for chartering the two flights and vowed to continue the relocation program Friday

A spokesperson for DeSantis said the migrants were flown to Martha's Vineyard as part of the governor's "promise to drop off undocumented migrants in progressive states." 

Their arrival comes after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey criticized the Biden administration's border security and immigration policies and bused migrants to New York City, Chicago and Washington. Nearly 8,000 migrants had been moved on state-sponsored bus trips by late August, straining cities' resources.

Biden on Thursday called the move reckless and un-American. "Instead of working with us on solutions, Republicans are playing politics with human beings, using them as props," Biden said.

DeSantis said Friday he was "perplexed" to hear Biden was planning a federal response: "It's only when you have 50 illegal aliens end up in very wealthy, rich enclave that (Biden) decides to scramble on this," he said.

BACKGROUND:DeSantis says 50 people flown to Martha's Vineyard are 'illegal immigrants'

WHAT'S NEXT?Texas, Arizona bus migrants to U.S. cities, and now Chicago 

On Friday, the group was moved to Joint Base Cape Cod, a facility that is home to five military commands, where state and local officials were coordinating food, shelter and essential services with volunteers, the Dukes County Emergency Management Association said in a release.

Here's what we know:

DeSantis says he'll continue relocating migrants

Gov. Ron DeSantis vowed Friday to continue his relocation program and defended using Florida's $12 million relocation program, aimed at transporting “unauthorized aliens” out of the state, to fly 48 migrants from Texas to Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts.

Florida Gov. DeSantis:50 people flown to Martha's Vineyard are 'illegal immigrants'

"There's also going to be buses and there will likely be more flights, but I'll tell you this: The Legislature gave me $12 million," he said. "We're going to spend every penny of that to make sure that we're protecting the people of the state of Florida."

DeSantis addressed questions about whether transporting migrants from Texas to Massachusetts met the intent of lawmakers when they included the $12 million in funding last spring.

He said "it's hard" for Florida to identify migrants when they arrive in cars, two or three at a time, so going to Texas to divert them from possibly coming to Florida is justified, he said.

Migrants were ‘lied to again and again,’ immigration attorney says

The migrants who arrived at Martha’s Vineyard were falsely told there would be jobs and housing waiting for them upon arrival, an immigration attorney told journalists Thursday. 

“Accounts from the migrants who arrived last night make it clear that they were lied to again and again,” Rachel Self said.

The migrants were given the offer of jobs, free housing, and $50 gift cards, according to Domingo Garcia, president of the League of United Latin American Citizens, a Washington-based civil rights group.

He said they were handed red folders with what proved to be fake documents promising jobs and housing, then flown to Martha's Vineyard in private charter planes, stopping at least once along the way.

FOLLOW THE FLIGHT:Florida Gov. DeSantis flew 50 migrants from Texas to Martha's Vineyard

Julio Henriquez, an attorney who met with several migrants, said they “had no idea of where they were going or where they were.”

Many of the migrants have appointments with ICE Monday morning in Texas, Washington, and D.C., Self said – appointments they’re worried about missing.   

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.

Everlides Dela Hoz, a mother and grandmother who made the trek from Venezuela with her husband and 25-year-old son, said the group, while grateful for the response they received in Martha's Vineyard, is angry that they were lied to. 

“When we got on the plane, they told us they would give us jobs, a place to live, everything,” she said through a translator. “The whole group is pretty upset. But they did take us to a nice place.”

Buses, ferry take group to Cape Cod 

The group left a church where they had been sheltering Friday and boarded buses bound for the Vineyard Haven ferry terminal. Police and state emergency management officials escorted the group through a crowd of people. As the migrants passed flashing cameras, they stopped to bid farewell to the islanders who welcomed them.

At the ferry terminal, Everlides Dela Hoz said she didn’t know where she was headed. Dela Hoz traveled from Venezuela with her husband and 25-year-old son. On Friday, she said she was told there would be beds and that it would be safe and that they were promised help finding work.

WOODS HOLE 09/16/22  State Police motorcycles lead a motorcade with the bus carrying the Venezuelan migrants from Martha's Vineyard to Joint Base Cape Cod at the Woods Hole Steamship Authority terminal on Friday morning. 
Steve Heaslip/Cape Cod Times

After a short passage to the mainland, the migrants arrived at the Steamship Authority’s Woods Hole station. Onlookers erupted in applause as their bus, led by a state police escort, left the boat.

State Rep. Dylan Fernandes, a Democrat, told reporters at the Steamship Authority dock in Woods Hole that the migrants were given the option to go to the base, but he didn’t know the exact number of people who had arrived there Friday. 

“This is what good government actually looks like, what compassionate government actually looks like,” Fernandes said. “I couldn’t be prouder of the people of Martha’s Vineyard and Cape Cod and I couldn’t be prouder to have a state team pull this together so quickly. We are a community that sprang together to give them the resources they needed, there was an outpouring of support from everywhere to help out.”

More:Cubans, Haitians are fleeing to US in historic numbers. These crises are fueling migration.

Immigrants gather with their belongings outside a church on Sept. 14, 2022, in Edgartown, Mass., on Martha's Vineyard. Local leaders say two plane landings here appear to be carrying Venezuelan nationals sent to Massachusetts by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Shelter, humanitarian support to be provided at Joint Base Cape Cod

Gov. Charlie Baker's office on Friday morning announced plans to provide new shelter and humanitarian support at the base, located on the Upper Cape, in cooperation with the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency and other officials. The governor said he would activate up to 125 members of the Massachusetts National Guard to assist.

At Joint Base Cape Cod, the migrants will find respite in dormitory-style accommodations. Emergency management officials said there will be spaces both for singles and families, and that families will be kept together. They will be provided with clothing and toiletries kits, and food.

Officials said they will also have access to legal and health care services, as well as mental health and crises counseling services. Interpreters will be on hand to assist with communication.

Joint Base Cape Cod is a 22,000-acre facility and designated emergency shelter in Barnstable County. It's used by the National Guard, Air Force and Coast Guard for training exercises. It is the only Coast Guard Aviation facility in the northeast and keeps watch over waters from New Jersey to the Canadian border. 

Biden: Republicans are 'playing politics with human beings'

Some Republicans, including Stephen Miller, a chief architect of former President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, celebrated the surprise flights while critics have derided them as inhumane.

Column:Ron DeSantis' Martha's Vineyard stunt cruelly uses migrants as human pawns, helping no one

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre accused DeSantis and Abbott of abandoning the migrants in Martha's Vineyard and called the incident a "a cruel political stunt" Thursday.

President Joe Biden echoed that sentiment hours later criticizing Republican officials at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Gala.

"Instead of working with us on solutions, Republicans are playing politics with human beings, using them as props," Biden said. "What they’re doing is simply wrong. It’s un-American. It’s reckless."

Contributing: N'dea Yancey-Bragg, Rick Jervis and Rebecca Morin, USA TODAY; Bruce Bowman, Pensacola News-Journal; Gwenn Friss, Cape Cod Times; Mark Harper, The Daytona Beach News-Journal; Associated Press