Martha’s Vineyard fiasco highlights flaws in US immigration system

Political stunt raises legal and ethical questions.

Hannah Larson, Editor-in-Chief

On Sept. 14, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis arranged for chartered planes to fly 50 undocumented Venezuelan immigrants and asylum seekers to Martha’s Vineyard, an island and summer colony off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. DeSantis said he wanted to send the message that Florida is not a sanctuary state and chastised sanctuary cities for “virtue signaling,” accusing them of only supporting immigration until immigrants came to their cities. 

Using immigrants as pawns in a political game is an inhumane way of tackling the thorny issue of illegal immigration. While DeSantis’ concerns about the recent uptick in illegal immigration are valid, relocating immigrants as a political stunt offers no solution to the problem at hand — it simply shuffles people from one state to another and sidesteps the larger issue of a broken system.


In the wake of the immigrants’ arrival in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker expressed frustration with U.S. immigration law and implored the federal government to overhaul the system. 

“It’s not a secret to anyone that our immigration system is broken,” Baker said. “It’s not a secret that our border is also broken because the immigration system is broken and states can’t fix it.”

On Biola’s podcast Think Biblically: Conversations on Faith and Culture, philosophy professor Scott Rae and Gordon-Cornwell Theological Seminary professor Dennis Hollinger pointed out that no public policy on immigration is perfect — and whatever that policy is, it still exists in a marred and broken world and will thus not be rooted fully in God’s kingdom. Even though no legislation will be flawless, Hollinger still encouraged Americans to strive toward implementing a better policy centered on freedom, justice and order.

Currently, U.S. immigration policy is in desperate need of repair that cannot come about through potentially illegal political showboating. On Sept. 19, Texas sheriff Javier Salazar said that his office opened a criminal investigation into DeSantis’ scheme of transferring immigrants between states, claiming that the Venezuelan asylum-seekers were falsely promised employment before being abandoned at Martha’s Vineyard. On Sept. 20, the group Lawyers for Civil Rights filed a lawsuit against DeSantis and other Florida officials.


According to NPR, Martha’s Vineyard was not expecting such an influx of new residents and their sudden arrival created a logistical nightmare for local officials. Nevertheless, Massachusetts Rep. Dylan Fernandes said that the Martha’s Vineyard community rallied around the newcomers and provided a plethora of resources before Massachusetts’ emergency management agency transferred the immigrants to Joint Base Cape Cod, a humanitarian shelter that houses displaced people. 

“These immigrants were not met with chaos, they were met with compassion,” Fernandes tweeted. “The community coming together with water, food, interpretation help and resources to support these families represent the best of America.”

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