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.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis took credit for chartering the two flights, but it’s unclear if he had the authority to do so. 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 officials in Texas and Arizona bused thousands of migrants to Washington D.C., New York and Chicago with little to know information.
BACKGROUND:Florida Gov. DeSantis says 50 people flown to Martha’s Vineyard are ‘illegal immigrants’
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:
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.
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.”
Next stop: 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.
Little information provided about flights
DeSantis took from the playbook of a fellow Republican, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, by surprising Democrat-led cities and states with large influxes of migrants. Providing little or no information is part of the plan.
Migrants got brochures and maps of Massachusetts on board their flight, but did not know where they were going, said Julio Henriquez, an attorney who met with several migrants.
Florida Gov. DeSantis:50 people flown to Martha’s Vineyard are ‘illegal immigrants’
The two flights from San Antonio to Martha’s Vineyard stopped in the Florida Panhandle, Henriquez said. The Miami Herald reported that the flights originated in Texas with stops in Florida and North Carolina, citing information from flight tracking company FlightAware.
Meanwhile, questions are being raised over whether the DeSantis administration was authorized to shuttle migrants from his state. The Miami Herald reported that DeSantis’ comments at a Thursday press conference suggest that “his efforts prevented those migrants from ever making it to Florida.” According to the state budget, the DeSantis administration is only allowed to “transport unauthorized aliens from this state,” the Herald reported.
Contributing: Bruce Bowman, Pensacola News-Journal; Associated Press