By Ana Perez, 10th Grade
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis followed through on his promise to ship ‘undocumented immigrants’ to other states, as he sent two planeloads of migrants to Martha’s Vineyard on September 14 from Texas. The island in Dukes County, a resort hotspot for the rich and powerful also known as ‘Lawyer Town,’ was soon overwhelmed by a large number of confused migrants who arrived at the local airport.
It’s important to note where these migrants came from. Firstly, they were not illegal immigrants as Ron DeSantis claims. They surrendered at the border and applied for asylum, which means that they are allowed to reside in the United States; this has caused further stress for most of the migrants and refugees, who are often trying to reunite with relatives while their legal asylum claims are processed in court. Second, the migrants were heavily misled. To find the victims of this scheme, people involved would pretend to be ‘good samaritans’ by providing the migrants fast food and a hotel stay, luring them away to the flights with the promise of employment, housing, and educational opportunities. Most of these migrants were vulnerable Venezuelan refugees, who would obviously not refuse the opportunity. The migrants were told that they were flying to Boston or Washington D.C from a private airstrip. While on the plane, the migrants received official-looking documents that included a brochure titled ‘Massachusetts Refugee Benefits.’ These brochures made false promises which included assistance with basic necessities such as housing and furnishing, job training, transportation to job interviews, and clothing. But when they arrived at Martha’s Vineyard, there was nothing. It was all a scheme. This was condemned as incredibly predatory on social media, as it targeted vulnerable individuals who simply wanted assistance to get off their feet and used them as a political stunt.
It has also been argued that this plot can be described as ‘human trafficking.’ According to the United Nations (n.d), “Human Trafficking is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of people through force, fraud or deception, with the aim of exploiting them for profit.” Since the refugees were transported from Texas to Massachussets through deception for a political stunt, the scheme does comply with the UN definition of human trafficking.
Thankfully for the refugees, donations and aid poured in. An AP Spanish Language class was sent to the scene in order to help interpret for the migrants. The Edgartown administrator claims many food and clothes were provided in order to aid the migrants. Residents from across the island and other parts of the country raised more than $175,000 after the migrants’ arrival according to Martha’s Vineyard Community Services. On Friday, the refugees were transported to the military base in order to receive shelter and humanitarian aid.
The stunt received mixed reactions. Democratic leaders denounced the moves and the White House press secretary called the actions “cruel, premeditated political” stunts. Others called it ‘human trafficking.’ However, some Republican leaders supported the stunt. Texas Senator Ted Cruz said on Twitter that he wanted to send migrants to Nantucket next.
But, Martha’s Vineyard isn’t called ‘Laywer Town’ for nothing. The Venezuelan migrants filed a class action lawsuit against Ron DeSantis and his transportation secretary for engaging in a “fradulent and discriminatory scheme” to transport them to Martha’s Vineyard. Attorneys want DeSantis and his fellow defendants to be banned from “inducing immigrants to travel across state lines by fraud and misrepresentation,” as well as damages “for the harm suffered by the migrants.” As a response, spokesperson Taryn Fenske released a statement Tuesday night accusing activists of being “opportunistic” and using illegal immigrants for political theater.” Fenske added, “If these activists spent even a fraction of this time and effort at the border, perhaps some accountability would be brought to the Biden administration’s reckless border policies that entice illegal immigrants to make dangerous and often lethal journeys through Central America and put their lives in the hands of cartels and Coyotes.”
What this story teaches us is that many politicians are willing to weaponize the needs of vulnerable individuals for political gain; they are willing to use people as political pawns in order to earn votes. The most we can do is demand accountability from these politicians and try to help the victims as much as possible.
- Fineout, G. (2022, September 15). DeSantis ships migrants to Martha’s Vineyard. POLITICO. Retrieved September 21, 2022, from https://www.politico.com/newsletters/florida-playbook/2022/09/15/desantis-ships-migrants-to-marthas-vineyard-00056842
- Lakhani, N. (2022, September 21). Advocates for migrants who were sent to Martha’s Vineyard sue Ron DeSantis. The Guardian. Retrieved September 21, 2022, from https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/sep/20/marthas-vineyard-immigration-lawsuit-ron-desantis-florida
- Human-Trafficking. (n.d.). United Nations : Office on Drugs and Crime. Retrieved September 21, 2022, from https://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/human-trafficking/human-trafficking.html
- Maxouris, M. C. M. A. C. (2022, September 16). Martha’s Vineyard migrants: Donations poured in and volunteers rushed to help. CNN. Retrieved September 21, 2022, from https://edition.cnn.com/2022/09/16/us/marthas-vineyard-community-response-migrants/index.html
- Adams, M. (2022, September 21). Migrants flown to Martha’s Vineyard have filed a lawsuit against Gov. DeSantis. NPR.org. Retrieved September 21, 2022, from https://www.npr.org/2022/09/20/1124160949/migrants-lawsuit-ron-desantis-marthas-vineyard