EDGARTOWN, Massachusetts — After two full days of sheltering in a Martha’s Vineyard Episcopalian parish, a group of traveling migrants from Venezuela was bused and ferried off the Massachusetts island on Friday morning.
Amid teary-eyed farewell hugs, volunteers who had worked around the clock to provide shelter, food, clothing and other basic necessities to the 48 migrants waved goodbye as they loaded onto buses. Staff at the St. Andrews Episcopalian Church in Edgartown told reporters the busing was voluntary.
“My heart breaks for them because they were not the first priority,” said Lisa Belcastro, one of the volunteers at St. Andrews. “They’re in my heart forever.”
Domingo Garcia, president of the League of United Latin American Citizens, met with the migrants Friday morning before they left. The families were being taken to the island’s Steamship Authority Vineyard Haven terminal, where they left for Joint Base Cape Cod, a Massachusetts National Guard facility, attorneys said. The base is about 60 miles from both Boston and Providence, Rhode Island.
From there, Garcia said attorneys and state officials would arrange to help them find accommodations in Massachusetts or out of state. Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, executive director of the Boston-based Lawyers for Civil Rights, said the families were being relocated outside of Martha’s Vineyard and into the mainland due to the logistical constraints of transporting services and immigration attorneys to and from the island.
Many of them say they are headed to Florida cities including Miami, Garcia said, where they have friends or family.
“The irony is that Governor [Ron] DeSantis paid for them to be brought here,” Garcia said.
Espinoza-Madrigal said that it’s still unclear how long they will stay in Cape Cod, how many migrants will stay in Boston and how many will relocate. The focus, he said, now turns to developing immigration cases for each of the migrants, as well as evaluating additional litigation they may want to file against parties responsible for their deception.
Rachel Self, a Boston immigration attorney who was conducting in-depth interviews with the migrants about their situations, alleged Thursday that agents with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security had likely falsified the addresses of some of the migrants in their paperwork. The result, she said, is that many of them had hearings scheduled in immigration courts across the country as soon as Monday morning. Missing them could jeopardize their chances of staying in the country.
Espinoza-Madrigal said a “significant number” of the migrants experienced this situation, while others had addresses that reflected where they expected to settle.
“Many of the people who had those experiences were not asked if they were fleeing” by federal immigration officials, said Espinoza-Madrigal. “There was just no inquiry and no consultation.”
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“It seems like there are breaches in protocol that need to be investigated further. There seem to be anomalies in the immigration paperwork that the families were provided by government officials and it raises a strong possibility of collusion between border officials and state actors,” he added.
This is a breaking news story and will be updated.