Massachusetts called in the National Guard on Friday to deal with the “humanitarian crisis” that locals claim was set off by just 50 migrants being flown to Martha’s Vineyard by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — before the deep-blue state shifted the new arrivals to Cape Cod.
Three buses rolled up to St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Edgartown to take the mostly Venezuelan migrants on the first leg of their journey from the elite island of multimillion-dollar mansions — including a seven-bedroom home owned by former President Barack Obama — to Joint Base Cape Cod on the mainland.
The National Guard members will supplement work already underway by the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, Gov. Charlie Baker’s office said in a statement.
“Our Administration has been working across state government to develop a plan to ensure these individuals will have access to the services they need going forward, and Joint Base Cape Cod is well equipped to serve these needs,” the governor said.
Baker added that the state emergency agency “is coordinating efforts among state and local officials to ensure access to food, shelter and essential services for these men, women and children.”
It’s unclear what duties would be performed by the National Guard members.
Baker said removing the migrants to Cape Cod was necessary because “the island communities are not equipped to provide sustainable accommodation, and state officials developed a plan to deliver a comprehensive humanitarian response.”
Baker and DeSantis are both Republicans, but the Florida governor this week sent two planeloads of migrants to Martha’s Vineyard to show solidarity with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s longer-running campaign to bus migrants to Washington, DC, New York City and Chicago in a bid to pressure Democrats into tightening border policies.
Abbott and DeSantis say they are shipping migrants north to help educate others about the strain experienced by border states.
This year has already seen an all-time record number of illegal border crossings. Fiscal year 2022, which ends Sept. 30, is expected to record more than 2 million migrant encounters along the US-Mexico border, an increase from 1.7 million in fiscal 2021, fewer than 500,000 in fiscal 2020 and nearly 1 million in fiscal 2019.
Critics blame President Biden’s border policies and his more welcoming rhetoric to migrants. The Biden administration has relaxed a Trump-era policy of turning away all illegal border-crossers, citing a CDC COVID-19 rule, and ended a policy of requiring migrants to remain in Mexico to await court rulings on their asylum claims.
DeSantis spokeswoman Taryn Fenske said the flights to Martha’s Vineyard were “part of the state’s relocation program to transport illegal immigrants to sanctuary destinations.”
“States like Massachusetts, New York and California will better facilitate the care of these individuals who they have invited into our country by incentivizing illegal immigration through their designation as ‘sanctuary states’ and support for the Biden administration’s open border policies,” Fenske said.
Abbott’s efforts to bus migrants to Washington, New York City and Chicago sparked panic and anger among local mayors. Democratic DC Mayor Muriel Bowser declared a “state of emergency” and Chicago’s Democratic Mayor Lori Lightfoot allegedly put migrants back on a bus — to a Republican-leaning suburb.
On Thursday, Abbott’s administration delivered 101 migrants to Vice President Kamala Harris’ official residence in Washington, saying, “We’re sending migrants to her backyard to call on the Biden Administration to do its job & secure the border.”
Biden tapped Harris last year to lead efforts to address the “root causes” of migration, but the crisis at the border instead worsened.
Biden on Thursday night slammed Abbott and DeSantis, telling a Hispanic Heritage Month gala in DC that his administration has “a process in place to manage migrants.”
“Republicans are playing politics with human beings, using them as props. What they’re doing is simply wrong, it’s un-American, it’s reckless,” Biden said. “And we have a process in place to manage migrants at the border. We’re working to make sure it’s safe and orderly and humane.”
Biden added, “Republican officials should not interfere with that process by waging these political stunts. It’s long overdue for Senate Republicans to come to the table to provide a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, those on temporary status, farmworkers and essential workers. We need to modernize our laws so businesses get workers they need and families don’t have to wait decades to be brought back together. It’s time to get it done. That’s why we have to win this off-year election.”