On the night of September 14, two planes carrying 50 Venezuelan asylees landed in Martha’s Vineyard sent by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Many were appalled by the fact that DeSantis used humans as pawns to pull a political stunt. Three of the Venezuelan migrants are suing DeSantis and republican officials for flying them to Martha’s Vineyard under false pretenses. While the investigation is yet to be finalized, it should be acknowledged that political stunts that involves humans deserve much criticism, especially when it’s initiated by a political leader who aspires to run for president. Although, there’s a larger picture that deserves much more attention than vexatious allegations.
It’s important to recognize that Martha’s Vineyard is a magnet for CEO’s, billionaires, celebrities, and progressive politicians—often referred to as the playground for the rich. It’s a secluded island that signifies status and relevance. To sustain their virtuous persona in a socio-economical unequal society, residents of Martha’s Vineyard express sympathy with the so-called ‘oppressed’ and vote on policies that they believe will serve their best interest. Particularly, Democratic politicians, like the Obamas and Clintons, portray a compassionate rhetoric towards the recent influxes of immigrants, while labeling their opponents, who show a greater concern for security risks, as xenophobes.
The 50 migrants that were sent to Martha’s Vineyard would test the genuineness of this rhetoric for the world to see. After all, Massachusetts is a sanctuary state and Martha’s Vineyard voted to be a sanctuary city.
In this scenario, you have two contrasting world’s colliding. On the one hand you have Martha’s Vineyard, one of the wealthiest jurisdictions in the U.S., and on the other hand you have Venezuela. Venezuela is one of the most brutal totalitarian rogue regimes of the 21st century that is currently plagued with mass poverty, violence, and corruption.1 It’s a miracle for anyone to escape such a country.
We in the West take every opportunity to condemn the deprivation of basic freedoms from authoritarian governments and recite national slogans, such as “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free…” Surely, the U.S. has not always held on to this principle and faced much criticism for its treatment of immigrants throughout history.2
Domestically, democrats and republicans have engaged in the finger pointing game over failed immigration policy for decades. But who is to blame when the very own orators of the New Colossus, the advocates of immigrants and undocumented citizens, can’t even practice what they preach? Not only did the elitists of Martha’s Vineyard deny any opportunity of temporary residents on the island, but they called deportation on all 50 of the immigrants.3
As a grandchild of a deported grandparent, the word “deportation” still haunts me to my core. I try to cloud those memories with warm stories of my grandparents’ cherry-picking days in Traverse City, Michigan—a place that is unlike Martha’s Vineyard. Traverse City is a regional tourist destination that is one of Michigan’s very own beauties. In the 60’s, Mexican migrant families traveled to this predominately white rural town to pick cherries for the farmers in exchange for a decent wage and housing.
The Mexican migrants soon grew fond of the farmers and their families for their care and hospitality. Traverse city farmers were in high demand of workers and the Mexican migrant community was the perfect solution to keep the Traverse City agriculture sector functioning. My grandparents enjoyed telling me about the cookouts that they would have with the community, where food and music were exchanged, how bourgeoisies window-shopping in the downtown area felt, and how they always looked forward to Sundays since everyone in the city took it as a rest day. As I read more about Martha’s Vineyard, I can’t help but be grateful to the farmers who showed my family acceptance during a time of segregation and racism.
The wealthy residents of Martha’s Vineyard had the opportunity to offer only an olive branch of solidarity to only 50 victims of a brutal totalitarian regime and failed. This must be put into perspective when considering the thousands of immigrants who overwhelmed average cities due to mismanagement at the border, which is why I amend Governor DeSantis for bringing attention to this crisis.
Cruz Garcia is a research fellow at the Urban Reform Institute. He received his masters degree from the Pepperdine School of Public Policy and his undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan College of Literature Sciences and Arts. His past research has focused on domestic politics and economic mobility in low-income communities.