New Bedford Councilor Dunn Urges City to Help Migrant Children on Vineyard
On Wednesday, the island of Martha's Vineyard, just a short ferry ride from the Port of New Bedford, became ground zero for the U.S.'s polarizing debate on immigration policy after Florida's Republican Governor Ron DeSantis clandestinely chartered two flights of 50 mostly Venezuelan migrants to Edgartown.
After a swift response by islanders to provide food and emergency shelter for the migrants and an equally swift response by Massachusetts Republican Governor Charlie Baker to set up a more suitable temporary residence for the migrants on Joint Base Cape Cod, the conversation quickly shifted to how state and local governments should help settle the group of migrants and prepare themselves for this continued practice by southern Republican governors to transport migrants to northern states like Massachusetts without notice.
A few miles west across Buzzards Bay from where the migrants have taken shelter, Ward 3 City Councilor Hugh Dunn was the first New Bedford city official to speak on the matter in an official capacity in a Friday appearance WBSM's SouthCoast Tonight. He urged the City to help provide some critical services for the most vulnerable of the migrants who were sent to the Commonwealth.
"I think New Bedford has a role to play in this because it's essentially right on our front doorstep," Dunn said. "I could see a scenario in where we step up, and I see these kids, why not put them in our schools?"
Dunn proposed that the school department could matriculate the migrant children into New Bedford Public Schools and teach them English Learning Language courses and other core curriculum.
"Let's help these kids out," Dunn emphasized.
New Bedford has a long history of welcoming to individuals and families who come to the United States seeking refuge. Earlier this year, with help of the Immigrants Assistance Center, New Bedford became home to six families that fled Afghanistan after the fallout of the United States' military withdrawal in that country.
Dunn acknowledged that New Bedford, like most cities across the country, is currently facing a housing shortage and said if it isn't possible to relocate the migrant families with children, then New Bedford Public Schools could explore the possibility of establishing remote learning courses so the students could get their foundational education courses while remaining on on the base.
"Right now the state is flush with federal dollars and and the surplus money," Dunn said. "Let's call on the state. Give us some money and we'll help take care of these people."
When the story first broke about the two flights of migrants landing in Edgartown, an inquiry was made by WBSM to the office of New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell on whether or not the city would welcome any of the migrants, but Mitchell's office could not be reached for comment.
"New Bedford is a community of immigrants," Dunn said. "It's what makes this community so rich and vibrant."
Listen to Chris McCarthy and Marcus Ferro's interview with New Bedford City Councilor Hugh Dunn on SouthCoast Tonight