Reviews | Florida sent migrants to Martha’s Vineyard. Its inhabitants have mobilized.


EDGARTOWN, Mass. – It was a political stunt intended to embarrass a holiday enclave known to attract high-profile liberal celebrities.

Without warning to local authorities, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (right) surprised the island of Martha’s Vineyard by sending two planes full of about 50 migrants, many from Venezuela. The migrants, who boarded the planes in San Antonio, said they were promised jobs, housing and an education at an undisclosed location. Unable to read or speak English, most did not even know where they were when they landed.

It’s all part of an ongoing campaign for change and gutting by Republican governors in the South who are using desperate people as political pawns to protest the Biden administration’s immigration policies. It happened again on Thursday when Texas Governor Greg Abbott (right) claimed responsibility for sending two surprise buses full of migrants to DC, where they were dropped off near the residence of Vice President Harris carrying everything they had in clear plastic trash bags.

These moves surely delight those in the Trumpian base who have taken to social media with glee. The surprise cuts aim to underscore the Liberals’ alleged hypocrisy in forcing them to deal with an influx of immigrants.

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But instead, they ended up showing only an outpouring of humanity.

When people talk about Martha’s Vineyard, they’re usually referring to sprawling beaches, spectacular homes, and household names like the Obamas, Clintons, Seth Meyers, or Spike Lee. The island is known for its wealth and, of course, there is a lot of it. But there’s another Martha’s Vineyard that people don’t know much about, and it was on full display this week.

Yes, there are Land Rovers and yachts here, but the Vineyard is primarily an island of farms and fishermen, a year-round population that lives close to land and, in many cases, works hard to reach both ends.

It is an island that oscillates between overwork and underemployment. It’s a place where everything – gas, food, housing, toothpaste, etc. – costs more than on the mainland. It’s a place where 1 in 6 residents are a registered Island Food Pantry user and a third of school children receive a free or reduced price lunch.

It’s a place where organized groups go ‘gleaning’ every week, picking produce left behind by farm machinery for use in the pantry.

It’s a place where a free supper is held almost every night at one of the churches on the island during the winter months when seasonal tourism-related work has dried up, so no one has to suffer from hunger.

It’s a place where an island benefactor held the Great Oyster Giveaway at the height of the pandemic in May 2020, when 16,000 pounds of fresh oysters were distributed to locals in 36-unit bags to keep the oyster farmers on water and food on the table when supplies ran out in grocery stores.

It is also a place that for many decades has opened its arms to various waves of immigrants, and it has done so this week without warning or preparation, creating emergency shelter within hours – finding food, clothing, inflatable beds, children’s toys, women’s clothing, hygiene products, linens and volunteer interpreters who speak Spanish.

Sadly, some of the stories these interpreters heard from migrants highlighted the layers of trauma they faced when fleeing their home countries. An interpreter who grew up in a bilingual household told me: “I had never heard the word ‘rape’ in Spanish.

“Basically, it’s an island full of working families sticking together,” said Rebecca Haag, executive director of the Island Grown Initiative, an organization that fights hunger here. “The people who sent these migrants here obviously didn’t understand this place.”

The 50 or so migrants were living in a small shelter with only one bathroom and were being transported to a military base on Cape Cod on Friday. Martha’s Vineyard, an island that welcomes people, has worked overtime to make them feel at home and safe.

We have seen this political game before, in the days of Jim Crow, when Southerners tried to retaliate against Northern liberals with what are called reverse freedom rides. When young civil rights activists traveled by bus to places such as Mississippi and Alabama, Southern leaders recruited buses full of unsuspecting black families and sent them to Hyannis, Mass., under the ruse that President John F. Kennedy himself had organized jobs and housing. for them.

It was all a hoax, and Similar to the game towards hypocrisy this week, the thinking then was that if busloads of black families with lots of kids showed up in Hyannis and other cities, northerners would back off and their insincerity would be exposed. in the sight of all. Instead, local leaders, black and white, formed a refugee aid committee and organized housing and jobs and enrolled children in schools.

So what is the real purpose when governors like Abbott and DeSantis engage in this kind of charade? I think we know.

They play with people’s lives to impress their base.

It’s ugly stuff. And that underestimates the generous spirit of this country.

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