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(Updated) Martha’s Vineyard receives immigrants flown from Texas. Rhode Island as sanctuary state.

UPDATE: As we went to publication, we learned that 2 buses, with over 150 immigrants, primarily from Venezuela, arrived at the Naval Observation which is the home of Vice President Kamala Harris. They disembarked and gathered on the lawn. Harris was said to be at home, but with a day of appearances to make. US Secret Service had shown up to position the immigrants in one spot.


48 migrants, said to be all originating from Venezuela, with a few from Columbia, arrived by chartered planes in Martha’s Vineyard yesterday, coming from San Antonio, continuing the Texas program of sending some of the thousands of immigrants who come across the border to states who identify as “sanctuary” locations. One report said the planes came from San Antonio – yet national reports are saying it came from Florida. Governor DeSantis has approved $8 million to pay for flights from Texas to disperse immigrants to other states. He told national news, and the Martha’s Vineyard airport confirms there were 2 planes.

With little or no notice to officials on the island, the Vineyard Gazette, the island’s newspaper, reports that they were greeted by emergency management staff and island personnel. They also reported the statement of one arrival, Eliase from Venezuela, who said, “We’re immigrants. We came here because of the situation in our country, for the economy, for work, for lots of things. I came here walking. We went through 10 different countries until we got to Texas. There a refugee association put us in a plane and told us there would be work and housing here. I feel good, despite everything. We spent four days in Texas so it’s good to be here.”

Some of the immigrants, many speaking through an interpreter app said they were happy to come to the island and hoped for jobs and housing and schools for their children, but also acknowledged they really didn’t know just where Martha’s Vineyard was.

The arrivals went to the island’s social service agency and were then taken to a high school cafeteria for food and temporary sleeping arrangements. Children were provided with crayons and activities, and the assistant principal of one school was engaging them in physical activity. Interpreters were being identified and coordinated. They later moved to St. Andrew’s Church where inflatable mattresses were set up. Edgartown Pizza provided food. Health officials were COVID testing the group (all tested negative according to local reports).

Some arrivals had been processed in Texas with immigration, while others were not and were concerned about that. Island officials were coordinating with the US Department of Homeland Security. Gov. Charlie Baker said, “The Baker-Polito Administration is in touch with local officials regarding the arrival of migrants in Martha’s Vineyard. At this time, short-term shelter services are being provided by local officials, and the Administration will continue to support those efforts.”

Other flights may be coming to the Island, according to some officials.

Islanders discussed this development with some saying that Camp Edwards on the Cape in Massachusetts should set up barracks and coordinate a statewide plan because we don’t have enough housing for our own”.

Others felt that this brings the failure of the government to their feet. One islander said, “Any blame lays at the feet of President Biden. Thousands of people pour into the country daily and the federal government refuses to set any policy whatsoever other than the door is wide open. What’s most amazing is that we have a serious humanitarian issue and the current administration has no idea what to do (anybody seen or heard from the border czar? Still no root causes). Blaming over run governors of border states who never claimed to be sanctuary havens is ignoring the problem. Wouldn’t be refreshing if politics took a back seat and problem solving and bipartisanship took the fore. Obviously, I’m the naive one now.”

Others who knew Spanish or had extra clothes and food came forward to offer support, even one federal contractor who worked on a resettlement program in California who offered to assist in a strategic way to handle what is expected to be an influx as more planes are expected to arrive.

Is Rhode Island a Sanctuary state?

Currently, there are 11 states declaring themselves “sanctuary states.” The District of Columbia is also considered a sanctuary jurisdiction. All are part the approximately 600 sanctuary jurisdictions in the U.S., most of which were established after 2000.

The 11 states are:

California – Colorado – Connecticut – Illinois – Massachusetts – New Jersey – New York – Oregon – Rhode Island – Vermont – Washington – District of Columbia.

While there is no official list of sanctuary locations, and the communities number over 600, the trend is going up, not down, in legislative action to protect immigrants from deportation or ICE action.

To read more on the sanctuary status:

In addition national legislation called the “Stop the Surge Act” identified both Martha’s Vineyard – and Nantucket – as locations to receive immigrants.

This is a developing story.

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