One of the most condescending and insulting responses on the left to the Martha’s Vineyard migrant imbroglio last week was the repeated insistence, by blue-check media figures and Democrat politicians alike, that the 50 migrants who voluntarily boarded a plane to Massachusetts were somehow misled or tricked into it.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, in this fevered telling, took advantage of these poor people for a political stunt, proving himself to be a cruel and heartless man, willing to exploit the misfortune of desperate migrants — weaponize them! — just to own the libs.
It’s hard to think of a more patronizing attitude toward men and women who successfully navigated a harrowing exodus from Venezuela and Columbia, trekked through Central America and Mexico, dealt with smugglers and cartels and corrupt police the entire way, and finally set foot in the United States.
Contrary to insulting left-wing stereotypes about ignorant and confused migrants, the people who show up at our southern border tend to be tough, determined, and keenly aware of what’s in their own best interest. (I know that firsthand, having interviewed hundreds of migrants over the years, most recently in Reynosa and Matamoros, Mexico. I always come away impressed by their grit and resolve and resourcefulness, which is more than I can say for Twitter blue-checks who are happy to opine about what we should do about “helpless migrants” but can’t be bothered to take a trip to the border to interview them in person.)
Now comes Judd Legum with an unintentionally hilarious story for Popular Information purporting to be a “smoking gun” proving that the Martha’s Vineyard migrants were lied to — and maybe even kidnapped! It’s probably the purest possible distillation of the condescending left-wing notion of confused and helpless migrants being led around by the nose by cynical and evil Republicans.
Legum opens his breathless reportage with this bombshell: “Popular Information has obtained documentary evidence that migrants from Venezuela were provided with false information to convince them to board flights chartered by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R). The documents suggest that the flights were not just a callous political stunt but potentially a crime.”
And what is this documentary evidence? A brochure outlining refugee and immigrant benefits and assistance available in Massachusetts, which is a sanctuary state with multiple state programs designed to assist refugees and migrants. Legum says he got the brochure from Lawyers for Civil Rights (LCR), a Boston-based legal organization that’s supposedly representing 30 of the migrants, who presumably got it from Florida officials before they boarded the flight to Martha’s Vineyard.
According to Legum, though, the benefits described in the brochure are only available to refugees who have been referred by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and authorized to live in the U.S. They’re not for illegal immigrants who have claimed asylum, like the Martha’s Vineyard migrants. Therefore, he says, they were misled. Lawyers for LCR are now asking the Massachusetts attorney general to open an investigation. “The allegation that the migrants were misled is legally significant,” writes Legum. “It would mean that the flights were not just heartless, but potentially criminal.”
But no matter how much activist reporters like Legum might wish that DeSantis had somehow committed a crime by offering illegal immigrants a voluntary free flight to Massachusetts, it just isn’t so. The 50 or so migrants who landed in Martha’s Vineyard last week were never promised employment or anything else, they were simply told that sanctuary states like Massachusetts, unlike Florida and Texas, have programs and assistance available to refugees and migrants, which is true.
The brochure in question, for example, contains a list of community services and churches that have migrant assistance programs. The first one listed is a link for the immigration page of a website called First Stop Martha’s Vineyard, which is an online reference guide to the island’s social services and programs. It includes information about the Massachusetts Office for Refugee and Immigrants, among other programs.
The flights themselves were organized and funded as part of Florida’s relocation program to transport Florida-bound illegal immigrants to sanctuary states like Massachusetts, California, and New York. The Florida legislature last year set aside $12 million for the program, which also targets human smugglers and traffickers through a law enforcement strike force. Texas has a similar program under the aegis of Gov. Greg Abbott’s $4 billion ongoing border security initiative, Operation Lone Star.
According to Florida officials, the Martha’s Vineyard migrants were identified in Texas as Florida-bound, but with no resources to travel. Some of them were sleeping in the streets, others in shelters. They were put up in hotels for a night or two and offered voluntary transport to Martha’s Vineyard. Some, after a night in a hotel, changed their minds and opted not to go. One migrant, a man named Eduardo Linares, told the Texas Tribune he declined the offer but that he’s since heard from people who went to Martha’s Vineyard, and now he’s wondering whether he made the right decision.
Legum quotes Linares alleging that a mysterious blonde-haired woman named “Perla” promised him and others a job and rent assistance in Martha’s Vineyard, but left out the part about Linares second-guessing his decision to stay behind.
Why? Because including that detail would disrupt the preposterous narrative that these migrants are confused and helpless, unable to make their own decisions, and totally at the mercy of duplicitous, scheming politicians like DeSantis and Abbott.
The reality of the situation is more complicated. Often, illegal immigrants who cross the southern border into the U.S. already have a job lined up and a place to stay, usually with family members. They’re bound for points all across the country, from California to Massachusetts. Some might even make their way to Martha’s Vineyard, especially if they’re offered a free ride.
That is to say, most of them have a plan. But you would never know it from the coverage of the Martha’s Vineyard saga, which didn’t just demonstrate the hypocrisy of leftists who welcome illegal immigrants so long as they don’t show up in places like Martha’s Vineyard. It also demonstrated the appalling condescension many in the corporate press have toward the very migrants they pretend to champion.
John Daniel Davidson is a senior editor at The Federalist. His writing has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Claremont Review of Books, The New York Post, and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter, @johnddavidson.