Investigate Misleading Flyers From Migrants Sent To Martha’s Vineyard

Investigate Misleading Flyers From Migrants Sent To Martha’s Vineyard

Migrants from Martha’s Vineyard had false information 3:07

(WABNEWS) — The lawyers of many of the nearly 50 migrants who unexpectedly arrived on Martha’s Vineyard said Monday that the brochures given to their clients were “very misleading” and “were used to entice (their) clients to travel under the pretense that there was (resettlement) aid available to them”.

The brochure lists services for refugees, including cash and housing assistance, clothing, transportation to job interviews, job training, and help enrolling children in school, among other resources.

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One of the Venezuelan migrants, who spoke to WABNEWS on condition of anonymity out of fear of negative effects on his immigration case, shared images of the flyer. They said the migrants were told the brochure had information about the assistance they would receive in Massachusetts, but were not told about the differences in programs for refugees and asylum seekers.

Venezuelan immigrant recounts how he was taken to Martha’s Vineyard 1:07

The migrants are, in many cases, asylum seekers, not refugees. Refugees apply for protection abroad and are admitted through the refugee admissions program, while asylum seekers apply within the United States.

The asylum seekers, believed by local authorities to be from Venezuela, arrived in Martha’s Vineyard on Wednesday, on a flight from Texas, thanks to efforts by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. DeSantis, who is running for re-election this year, said he wanted to draw attention to the border crisis. Texas Governor Greg Abbott, another Republican running for re-election, has bused thousands of migrants to New York and Washington over the summer to also highlight his criticism of the Texas government’s immigration policies. Joe Biden.

DeSantis’ move was harshly denounced by the White House, by Democratic officials and immigration attorneys who say the migrants were misled about their final destination.

At a news conference Friday, DeSantis said they all signed waivers and knew where they were going. “Obviously that’s where they were going,” he said, adding, “It’s all voluntary.”

“Massachusetts Welcomes You”

The brochure, which has now been posted online by the legal group representing many of the cases, features a photo of what appears to be a road sign that reads “Massachusetts Welcomes You” and a photo of a lighthouse without description. It also provides a brief summary of what resettlement agencies can do for refugees, in English and Spanish text.

Also listed on the brochure is the phone number for the Massachusetts Office for Refugees and Immigrants, which told WABNEWS this is not a document released by its office.

The brochure was posted online by the legal group representing many of the cases.

The brochure features a photo of what appears to be a road sign that reads “Massachusetts Welcomes You” and a photo of a lighthouse with no description. WABNEWS has blurred parts of this image to remove phone numbers.

The cover includes an image of the state of Massachusetts and a list of community service agencies located on Martha’s Vineyard and at least one on Cape Cod.

The list includes the number for Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, which eventually welcomed the immigrants and helped them find initial housing at a church on the island.

Oren Sellstrom, litigation director for Lawyers for Civil Rights Boston, which represents many of the migrants, said his clients left Texas expecting everything advertised in the brochure to await them once they landed.

Lawyers are investigating where the leaflets came from, when they were given to the migrants and why, according to the group.

DeSantis again defended sending the migrants to Massachusetts during an interview with Fox News on Monday night, saying, “The vendor that’s doing this for Florida provided them with a package that had a map of Martha’s Vineyard on it. It had the numbers for the different services in Martha’s Vineyard, and then I had the numbers of the agencies in general in Massachusetts that handle things related to immigration and refugees.

It was not clear if he was referring to the brochure in question.

Two of the migrants previously told WABNEWS that, while in San Antonio, they decided to make the trip after two women and a man approached them on the streets near a migrant resource center.

One of the migrants, Wilmer Villazana, said he was put up in a hotel for five days before the flights and was treated well. The women told him they were from Orlando and worked for private organizations that raise money to help migrants, Villazana said.

Most migrants are not eligible for the programs referred to in the brochure

“The type of program being talked about here is not something that is normally going to be available to any immigrant,” Sellstrom explained. “It is highly misleading in that it was used to entice our customers to travel under the guise that this help was available when, in fact, the type of program has very specific eligibility.”

Most of the migrants sent to Martha’s Vineyard have been processed by federal authorities and will go through an immigration process in which an immigration judge will ultimately decide whether they can remain in the United States. Given their status as asylum seekers, and not as refugees, they may not be entitled to the benefits listed in the brochure.

Refugees are entitled to benefits offered by the federal government, including financial aid and medical assistance. Asylum seekers are generally not entitled to federally funded benefits, although once asylum is granted, they may receive some help.

Migrants continue to receive humanitarian services at Joint Base Cape Cod after Republican Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker’s office voluntarily moved them there, activating more than 100 National Guardsmen in the overall effort.

US Attorney for Massachusetts Rachael Rollins told reporters Thursday that she would speak with members of the Justice Department about Gov. DeSantis sending the migrants to Martha’s Vineyard.

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