The Massachusetts congressional delegation sent a letter to federal officials Monday requesting expedited financial assistance to local groups that aid migrants, citing the recent unannounced transfer of dozens of Venezuelan migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard.
The letter, spearheaded by Senator Elizabeth Warren and signed by every member of the state’s all-Democratic delegation except for US Representative Richard Neal, was addressed to the heads of the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
It was sent on the same day that a Texas sheriff announced he had opened a criminal probe into Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s relocation program that flew the migrants to the Vineyard last week amid complaints they were duped into getting onto two chartered planes with false promises of cash payments and job opportunities.
“Massachusetts has recently seen an uptick in migrant arrivals,” the lawmakers wrote. “This includes nearly 50 Venezuelans who arrived in Martha’s Vineyard and nearly 2,000 predominantly Haitian migrants who have arrived in Boston in recent months.”
The lawmakers asked the heads of the two federal agencies to use their authority to ensure FEMA’s Emergency Food and Shelter Program distributes funds as quickly as possible to local nonprofits.
”In particular, we ask that you designate personnel to help ensure that these entities’ applications for EFSP funding be expedited and, to the greatest extent possible, that the funding be granted up front instead of on a reimbursement basis.”
The letter did not identify the aid organizations seeking federal funding.
The migrants who arrived on the Vineyard last week were given care and emergency housing until temporary shelter could be set up at a Cape Cod military base.
“Massachusetts is showing itself fully capable of caring for those in need who arrive in the Commonwealth,” the letter said. “We respectfully ask for your continued assistance to ensure that the federal government is a helpful partner to those doing important humanitarian work on the ground.”
On Monday, Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar said in a news briefing that his office will look into whether the migrants were “lured ... under false pretenses” from a migrant resource center in San Antonio and brought — after a brief stop in Florida — to Martha’s Vineyard, “where they were unceremoniously stranded.”
Salazar, a Democrat, called the relocation program “political posturing” and “little more than a video op.”
“What infuriates me most about this case is that here we have 48 people that are already on hard times, they are here legally in our country. At that point, they have every right to be where they are and I believe that they were preyed upon,” Salazar told reporters. “Somebody came from out of state and preyed upon these people, lured them with promises of a better life, which is what they were absolutely looking for.”
Boston-based Lawyers for Civil Rights has been pressing federal and state authorities to launch criminal and civil investigations into the scheme. On Monday, the lawyers continued to meet one-on-one with the migrants, mostly young men and some families, who have been housed at Joint Base Cape Cod in Bourne since Friday.
Asked why Neal didn’t sign the Massachusetts lawmakers’ letter, spokesperson Margaret L. Boyle said via email that the congressman’s office has “been in direct contact with FEMA regarding the implementation and expedient delivery of services through their Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP). We are supportive of assisting FEMA and other agencies [to] acquire the assets they need to provide resources to migrants here in MA.”
On Monday, DeSantis, a possible 2024 Republican presidential candidate, repeated his stance that the migrants were not misled into getting on the planes, which were private charter flights paid for by Florida taxpayers.
In an interview with conservative radio host Erick Erickson, DeSantis said “the vendor [of the planes] got written consent forms from everybody that was transported, also provided a packet that had a map of Martha’s Vineyard, numbers on the Vineyard for social services, as well as for the state of Massachusetts.”
Material from prior Globe stories was used in this report.
Travis Andersen can be reached at email@example.com.