For the first time since two planes landed on Martha’s Vineyard with about 50 mostly Venezuelan migrants shipped up from Texas by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell gave some insight into what help the City has offered the migrants.

In his weekly appearance on WBSM, Mitchell said his office reached out to the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency on the day the planes landed and offered two things: any supplies needed such as water or toiletries, and to take in some of the migrants if needed.

“We said, look, when you’re ready to start talking placement, we’re open to that discussion,” Mitchell said. “Those discussions haven’t happened in earnest, but we did reach out, and at this point the state is still trying to figure out what to do with all these folks, but I think we’d like to play some role if it makes sense for the people who are affected as well as the City.”

Mitchell pointed out, however, that the City will “not bear the entire burden of it,” noting the money to help with the migrants would likely come from state or federal funds.

“That’s not to say we have plentiful vacant housing in the city to accommodate everybody, but if we can do a little bit, then I think that’s a good thing,” he said.

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Mitchell pointed to how the City of New Bedford was able to take in six Afghan families following last year’s troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the fear that those who helped the United States might fall victim to the Taliban.

“We’ve facilitated them getting housing, facilitated them getting jobs, getting their kids in school,” he said. “I'm very proud that our city was able to do that, and I'd do it again tomorrow. If there are more that want to come, our doors are open.”

Mitchell pointed out that like the Afghan refugees, the migrants brought to Martha’s Vineyard are also seeking asylum.

“Their immigration status is pending, so they’re not without papers is my understanding. They’re people who have applied for asylum,” he said. “We in New Bedford have over the years done a pretty good job of bringing people in when things get rough.”

He pointed to not only the Afghan families, but also the large number of people from Puerto Rico who came to the New Bedford following Hurricane Maria.

“And we let it be known that if there were Ukranians that would come here, we’d raise our hands for that,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell called DeSantis’ move to fly the migrants up to Martha’s Vineyard “a political stunt” and said “the whole thing is unfortunate.”

A former federal prosecutor, Mitchell also agrees with the investigation into what was done to see if there are potentially any criminal violations.

“I don’t think there’s any ambiguity here. These people were not told, they could not possibly have been told what was in store for them,” he said. “There are investigations being opened up, and of course there should be investigations opened up. There may be Mann Act violations, there may be harboring violations, there may be a whole bunch of other stuff. That’s not to say anybody is ultimately going to get charged with a crime, but there sure is enough smoke there to look at. If I were still a federal prosecutor I'd be looking at that right away.”

Mitchell also stated that the real solution needs to be serious immigration reform, and that falls on Congress – although he said he wasn’t holding his breath.

“We need a more secure border, we need to tighten up on a number of rules,” he said. “We also need to find a more useful way to citizenship that doesn’t exist right now, or hardly exists, and deal with the people who have been here…to get better situated and get citizenship. That has to happen, and Congress has not acted.”

While Mitchell was all for helping people who were coming here for asylum, he also said that if people are here without any immigration status, “we’re not going to be finding ways to keep you here.”

“If they don’t have legitimate status, they can’t stay in the United States,” he said.

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