“A Humanitarian Crisis”: Migrants Stranded in Martha’s Vineyard

On September 14th, approximately 50 migrants landed on the Massachusetts island Martha’s Vineyard. Two days later, nearly all of them left for a military base on the mainland. Most of the migrants were from Venezuela, although some were from other Latin American countries.

Dr. Joshua Bowman’s research focuses on the intersection of religion and imagination with political thinking and behavior.

Anyone wondering how they ended up so far north so quickly should look no further than Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. DeSantis was responsible for the flights across the country which began in San Antonio, Texas. His motives are unknown, although many have speculated on his intentions. Dr. Joshua Bowman, a professor of Political Science at Hope College who teaches many classes on American Politics, says that “It is obviously a political stunt. This isn’t just procedure, this is all politics.” The sentiment has been echoed by pundits and congress members alike, with people across the left-right divide condemning his actions.

There are two main speculations behind the flights. First, DeSantis may be trying to frame himself as the de facto leader of the Republican party and a possible candidate for the presidential nomination. By making national news and collaborating with other prominent political figures like Greg Abbott, the governor of Texas, DeSantis shows himself to be a competent policy leader. The second motivation is hazier. It is thought that he may be using this to refocus the national attention. According to Saul Anuzis, managing partner of Coast to Coast Strategies, LLC, a political consulting firm, “Democrats are desperately trying to make abortion, Trump, and 2024 the issue, the challenge is that the other issues are real and affect folks daily.” The problem for Republican leaders is that the Democrat’s strategies have been working. According to Insider, “Since August, Democrats have been feeling more optimistic about their forthcoming chances in the November midterms thanks to legislative wins in Congress, decreasing gas prices, and the threat of a GOP push for a nationwide abortion ban. They’ve also been able to keep the spotlight on former President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly teased a 2024 White House run, is the subject of an FBI investigation over classified documents and faces a $250 million fraud lawsuit.”

Another possible motivation for the flights could be much less formal. DeSantis may be shipping migrants across the country in order to give upper-class liberals a “taste of their own medicine.” This likely plays at least some role in the location and timing of the flights. Martha’s Vineyard is a wealthy, white, isolated and, most importantly, liberal neighborhood. If the residents were to reject the migrants then it would show them to be hypocritical in their beliefs. This continues a trend within right-wing politics of “owning the libs” in order to drum up support for a cause or politician. Dr. Bowman talks about this as well, saying that “It is remarkably unethical to lie to these individuals, put them on planes and buses, and dump them somewhere,” calling it “human trafficking for politics.”

Local high school students bring donated food into St. Andrew’s Parish House in Edgartown

Regardless of DeSantis’ motivations, what Martha’s Vineyard highlights is a very real problem at the southern border. It is not an unwillingness to accept or help those in need. In fact, the residents of Martha’s Vineyard were accommodating to the immigrants while they were there. A local church stepped in to provide shelter, and many residents donated their time toward the cause. According to NPR, none of the migrants spoke English, so high-schoolers were brought in to translate. Local restaurants also pitched in to help provide food and shelter. The problems were more about infrastructure than personnel. There was only one available shower, and all of the men slept in one large room. Ultimately, it made more sense for most of the migrants to leave and go to the military base where they would have adequate housing, utilities and health care.

While this may seem like a loss for DeSantis and other border-state politicians in an attempt to paint liberals as hypocrites, it actually illustrates the larger problem that our nation is facing. Dr. Bowman talks about how the issues they had at Martha’s Vineyard are the same ones they’re facing down South, only for longer and at a larger scale. “On the one hand, the governors of Texas and Florida are correct in saying that there is a humanitarian crisis at the border,” Dr. Bowman said, “not in the sense of who these people are but in what we’re not providing them.” Additionally, the role that DeSantis played for Martha’s Vineyard is similar to the role of the Federal Government. “The National Government has gone lax on the border, but the states are stuck with the bill,” explained Dr. Bowman. Unlike the situation in Massachusetts, there are more problems than just food and housing. Education and judicial systems are all required, and “It falls on the states.” Bowman continued, saying that “The National Government’s inadequate response to the humanitarian crisis at the border often leaves state and local governments with something like an unfunded mandate to house, clothe, educate and care for these people.” People whose only option is the very services that aren’t being provided. 

Ultimately, all this illustrates how immigration is a far more complicated issue than anyone in government is willing to admit. As Bowman says, what’s happening at the border is “a humanitarian crisis that neither party has the desire to fix. Both are out of touch with reality and care more about politics and optics.” One thing has become clear throughout these circumstances: as long as minority votes are on the table, it will be incredibly difficult to get our representatives to care about the reality.

'“A Humanitarian Crisis”: Migrants Stranded in Martha’s Vineyard' has no comments

Be the first to comment this post!

Would you like to share your thoughts?

Your email address will not be published.