Migrants staying at Joint Base Cape Cod settle in as they determine where to go from here
Before he unexpectedly found himself on a 87-square-mile island off Cape Cod, one male migrant said he'd had plans to travel to Utah to join a friend. Another was en route to Seattle, while several were meant to go to New York.
"I think we're going to see people figuring out their lives and determining what they're going to do next," Cyr, a Democrat who represents Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket, said during a phone interview Tuesday.
A delegation of local legislators, led by Cyr and state Rep. Dylan Fernandes, D-Woods Hole, toured the military base Monday morning to see firsthand how the state is caring for the migrants.
How the migrants got to Cape Cod
Last Wednesday, two charter planes holding about 50 migrants, mostly from Venezuela and including children, landed on Martha's Vineyard without warning.
Aboard two charter planes sent by Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, the migrants were flown from Texas to Martha's Vineyard without warning last Wednesday. DeSantis' spokesperson said the migrants were flown to Martha's Vineyard as part of the governor's "promise to drop off undocumented migrants in progressive states."
Two migrants have since left the base and have gone to New York to meet up with family.
Earlier this week, Fernandes had said he is requesting the Department of Justice open a federal investigation into the matter. Boston-based Lawyers for Civil Rights, which represents 39 of the migrants, is also calling for a criminal investigation.
Accommodations on the base
On Friday, the migrants boarded Martha's Vineyard Regional Transit buses bound for the Vineyard Haven ferry terminal on their way to Joint Base Cape Cod.
The base is set up dormitory-style to help keep families together. Each dormitory has about 200 beds, Cyr estimated. Nonprofit organizations are stationed in the cafeteria, including Brockton's Father Bill's & MainSpring and Housing Assistance Corporation from Hyannis.
Here's how you can help: Want to make a donation for migrants on Cape Cod military base?
"It's sort of a bustling environment," Cyr said.
Migrants who spoke with legislators underlined that "none of them knew where they were going," Cyr said. One woman said she "felt kidnapped," he said.
During their visit, legislators saw kids playing catch in the field with donated baseball gear, Fernandes tweeted. One child saw a pediatrician for the first time in their life.
"They expressed deep gratitude for how well they are being taken care of," Fernandes wrote on Twitter.
'Unfettered' legal access for Martha's Vineyard migrants
Attorneys representing the migrants have "24/7 unfettered access" to the site, Cyr said. A floor, equipped with printers and scanners, has been made available so lawyers can meet privately with their clients.
The state boosted cell reception for better cell and Wi-Fi service as well as provided the migrants with iPads. Cyr said the devices are the same iPads the state provided to people quarantining in hotels during the beginning of the pandemic.
To his knowledge, all migrants were complying with federal immigration law, Cyr said. They had entered the country to claim asylum and were being processed by federal immigration authorities.
"There’s a question if the perpetrators of this stunt violated the due process rights of these asylum seekers," Cyr said.
Cyr said officials did learn that one Venezuelan migrant reported being paid by a mysterious woman named Perla to help recruit others to join the trip.
Some migrants who arrived at Martha's Vineyard had previously told the Cape Cod Times they were approached in a San Antonio shelter by an unknown woman who told them her name was Perla. The woman allegedly promised them three months' worth of work and a place to stay if they got on planes to Washington, New York, Philadelphia and Boston.
In the coming days, migrants will figure out where to go from here.
Some may decide to go to family or friends in other parts of the country, while others have expressed interest in staying in the Greater Boston area and exploring work opportunities, Cyr said.
Bourne Public Schools Superintendent Kerri Anne Quinlan-Zhou said Monday that the district is "ready, willing and able to provide a public school education" to the migrant children if the need arises.
Many of them expressed admiration for how they have been treated in Massachusetts thus far, he said.
"This was a cruel ruse that manipulated vulnerable people who were seeking a better life," Cyr said. "A $600,000, maybe $900,000 political stunt that capitalizes on asylum seekers is abhorrent and disgusting and deeply un-American."
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