Press Release: 2022-09-22

Frequently asked questions about the asylum seekers flown to Martha’s Vineyard on September 14

Frequently asked questions about the asylum seekers flown to Martha’s Vineyard on September 14



Posted by Allie Girouard // on September 20, 2022 // in Immigration



Last updated on September 21 at 11:15am



Added September 21



What legal procedures will the asylum seekers have to go through?

Asylum seekers are required to file for asylum within one year of arriving in the United States. This requires filing an application for asylum and supporting documentation demonstrating that the individual qualifies for asylum – specifically that a person is outside of their country and is unable or unwilling to return for fear of persecution based on their race, religion, ethnicity, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.



What immigration deadlines are the asylum seekers facing?

Asylum-seekers must file their initial asylum application within a year of arriving in the United States. These individuals will also have check-ins with their local Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office. This requires going to a local ICE office on a particular date, although some check-ins may take place over email or phone. There will likely be other deadlines in the coming months, but it varies based on each individual case.



Will they be eligible for a special kind of visa because of the way they were sent to Martha’s Vineyard?

It is likely they will be eligible for a U visa, which is a visa for victims of trafficking and other crimes. Typically, certification for a U visa by a local, state, or federal official is one of the most difficult steps in obtaining a U visa. However, given the type of acts committed against these individuals and the attention the acts have received, these asylum seekers will likely have less difficulty obtaining the appropriate U visa certification.



What legal action is being taken against the Florida officials who transported the asylum seekers to Martha’s Vineyard?

A federal class action suit was filed Tuesday that alleges that Florida officials, including Gov. Ron DeSantis, engaged in a “fraudulent and discriminatory scheme” to transport nearly 50 asylum seekers from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, and aims to prevent similar situations. Lawyers For Civil Rights announced the 35-page lawsuit, saying it was filed on behalf of Venezuelan immigrants stranded in Martha’s Vineyard, and Alianza Americas, a network of migrant-led organizations supporting immigrants in the U.S. The plaintiffs are asking the court to enjoin the defendants, which also include Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Jared Perdue, from inducing immigrants to travel across state lines by fraud and misrepresentation, and to deliver damages for the harm suffered by the migrants.





Added September 20



How did the asylum seekers arrive in Martha’s Vineyard?

They were flown on two private jets. One plane flew from Texas to Florida to South Carolina to Massachusetts. Another flew from Texas to Florida to North Carolina to Massachusetts. 



How many people are there?

Approximately 50.



Where did these asylum seekers come from?

The majority are from Venezuela, but a few are from Peru.



Why did the majority of these asylum seekers come to the U.S. from Venezuela?

In the midst of severe civil unrest, thousands of people have left Venezuela seeking safety and security elsewhere. Venezuela remains in a deep economic and humanitarian crisis worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic. The nearly 50 Venezuelans who arrived at Martha’s Vineyard represent a small portion of asylum seekers from many different countries now living in Massachusetts. In the past year, approximately 22,000 asylum seekers have arrived in Massachusetts. Read more on the crisis in Venezuela, updated as of September 2022.



Why did they leave Martha’s Vineyard?

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker provided Joint Base Cape Cod (JBCC) as accommodation for the asylum seekers. On Friday, September 16, the Commonwealth provided transportation from Martha’s Vineyard to JBCC. According to the Baker-Polito administration, these noncitizens were not required to move to JBCC. 



Why Joint Base Cape Cod (JBCC)?

JBCC is a facility already designated by MEMA as an emergency shelter in Barnstable County. According to the Baker-Polito administration, “BCC has historically housed and cared for displaced individuals, including Louisiana residents fleeing the impact of Hurricane Katrina, as well as an alternative care medical site for Massachusetts residents during the COVID-19 pandemic.”



Are the asylum seekers being housed by the family unit?

The asylum seekers are being housed by family unit in the barracks at JBCC. 



Is there a timeline for when the asylum seekers will leave for other destinations?

No. There is no prescribed timeline. The provision of 3 months has been announced by the Administration, but all individuals are free to leave before that if they choose to do so. 



What support is in place at the base?

All adults have been provided with on-site legal immigration assistance coordinated by South Coastal Counties Legal Services. Several people have attended local medical appointments.  Trauma counselors have been made available. Soccer balls, basketballs, and bocce have been provided by volunteers. Meals and snacks are being provided.  



Is there legal support available at the base?

All adults have been provided with on-site legal immigration assistance coordinated by South Coastal Counties Legal Services and pro bono lawyers from the New England Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.  



What is the difference between an “asylum seeker,” “refugee,” and “migrant,” and why is this distinction important?




  • The term migrant is not defined under international law, but typically refers to someone who moves to another place to find work or better living conditions.

  • refugee is a person who is outside of their country who is unable or unwilling to return for fear of persecution based on their race, religion, ethnicity, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. Refugees are defined in and protected by international law.

  • Asylum seekers are applicants for refugee status who must go through an asylum process in the country in which they seek asylum in order to secure a permanent residence. 



The term “asylum seeker” most accurately describes the individuals who were flown to Martha’s Vineyard.