© 2022 WUGA | University of Georgia
shupe_2.jpg
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Here's what's happening for the migrants sent to Martha's Vineyard

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Today most of the approximately 50 migrants who had just arrived on the Massachusetts island of Martha's Vineyard on Wednesday left for a military base on the mainland. They had been flown in by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis with no advance notice as an immigration policy protest. Eve Zuckoff with member station WCAI in Martha's Vineyard has been following this journey. Hey, Eve.

EVE ZUCKOFF, BYLINE: Hi there.

KELLY: Hi. So I gather the migrants spent a couple of nights in a shelter on the island. It sounds like this was all hastily set up to take care of them in a local church. How did today unfold?

ZUCKOFF: Yes. So to answer - to kind of explain that a little bit more, the community rallied. They took care of them for a couple of days. High school students acted as interpreters. Faith leaders were there. Restaurants pitched in. So the island of Martha's Vineyard is stocked with volunteers, but there isn't the infrastructure. There was one shower, a single large sleeping area for the men. I mean, the shelter usually only takes in about a dozen people in the winter. So today the big news is that the state had offered to bring the migrants to a military base on the mainland where they will have more comfortable housing, attorneys, health care, mental health care. And most of the migrants took a ferry, so now they are at the base.

KELLY: Yeah. I know you were able to talk to at least some of them while they were on Martha's Vineyard. Tell me more. Who are these people?

ZUCKOFF: Yeah. Most but not all of the migrants are from Venezuela. We talked to several who said they crossed the border to San Antonio, Texas. There, they were approached by a woman who identified herself as Perla. They said she promised them food, put them up in a hotel, told them she would put them on a plane to land them somewhere where they'd have expedited work papers or jobs lined up. Everyone had similar stories but some differences within them. And some if not all - some but not all thought they were going to Boston. Of course, that turned out not to be true. I talked to a man this morning named Pablo Plassa. He's 27 years old, a welder and student from Venezuela. He said he felt duped.

PABLO PLASSA: (Speaking Spanish).

ZUCKOFF: He's saying, "a lot of us are parents of families. We have homes and people who rely on us. And to do that, to play us, to use us like tokens - none of us are pieces to be used on their chessboard."

KELLY: What about people who live there, who live on Martha's Vineyard? What are they saying about the migrants' time there?

ZUCKOFF: You know, there's been so much gratitude that's flowing both ways, actually. You know, people made it so that the migrants were comfortable. Someone brought a soccer ball. They were playing. People were playing dominoes also. Little kids were drawing on a big chalkboard. There was dancing at one point. So the goodbyes were really tearful. Lisa Belcastro runs the homeless shelter on the island, and she said these people will be in her heart forever. She she wants the best for them.

LISA BELCASTRO: I want them to come to America and be embraced. They all want to work. And I just - I want their journey to have a happy ending.

KELLY: Wow. What do we know about how this story might end? What is next for these 50 or so migrants?

ZUCKOFF: Well, they're settling in on the base, where volunteers from a local church are headed. One woman actually greeted them there with Venezuelan food in hand. Next, the challenge is sorting out immigration papers. One attorney who came to help says that these people were told, quote, "a sadistic lie." But she says lawyers will have their backs, and if Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was trying to create a crisis, he failed.

KELLY: That is Eve Zuckoff with member station WCAI in Martha's Vineyard, Mass. Thank you, Eve.

ZUCKOFF: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eve Zuckoff is WCAI's Report for America reporter, covering the human impacts of climate change.