Martha's Vineyard Episcopalians rally to shelter surprise-arrival migrants

St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Edgartown, MA Courtesy photo St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Edgartown

St. Andrew's Church in Edgartown opened its doors to provide emergency shelter overnight to 43 men, women and children--all reported to be migrants from Venezuela--who unexpectedly arrived on Martha's Vineyard by plane late in the day on Sept. 14 with no notice to island officials.  The migrants themselves seemed to have been uninformed, or misinformed, according to some reports, about their destination.

News media have reported that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis's administration arranged for the people to be sent to Martha's Vineyard as part of a wider scheme to relocate undocumented immigrants to states like Massachusetts that have "sanctuary" policies in place against cooperation with aggressive federal deportation efforts.

Politics aside, local officials, community service providers, volunteers and churches have rallied to meet basic needs until next steps are determined.  The new arrivals were taken for temporary shelter to St. Andrew's Church, whose facilities are sometimes used for shelter space as part of community-supported housing services.  Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker's administration is reported to be supporting the local effort with state emergency aid.

Given the evolving nature of the situation, Diocese of Massachusetts Bishop Alan M. Gates and Bishop Suffragan Gayle E. Harris and diocesan staff are in contact with St. Andrew's clergy and leaders as they discern what further response may be needed.  St. Andrew's co-warden Palmer Marrin reports an "amazing outpouring of community support."  Donated supplies and services, including language translation and legal counsel, seem to be adequate at this point, she said, so those wishing to help are invited to make online monetary donations to St. Andrew's Church via, designating "Refugee Efforts" in the note field.  St. Andrew's can then make sure the funds go to where they are most needed as the situation evolves, in coordination with the other island churches.

"We deplore the treatment of human beings as pawns in political disputes," Bishop Gates said today. "Unannounced relocations and family separations are not humane, nor do they promote constructive immigration policy debate.  We are grateful to the people of St. Andrew’s and to the entire Martha’s Vineyard community for their compassionate response to people in need, and pledge our support of those efforts."