Ardenis Nazareth, newly arrived from Venezuela, was standing in a McDonald’s parking lot across the street from a San Antonio shelter a few days ago contemplating his next steps.
After a monthslong odyssey through seven countries he had finally made it to the United States. It was time to banish from his thoughts the worst moments — when he was robbed at gunpoint and people dropped dead of exhaustion beside him as they crossed a lawless jungle, and when he watched helplessly as his friend was swallowed by the turbulent waters of the Rio Grande, just before touching U.S. soil in Texas.
Now Mr. Nazareth had one objective in mind: make money to support the two young daughters he had left behind.
That is when a well-dressed woman who introduced herself as Perla handed him and about 30 other migrants gift cards for the fast-food restaurant, which they gladly accepted. Then she made an enticing offer: a free flight to a “sanctuary,” he recalled, where there were people to help them get on their feet. The place was called Massachusetts.
Was that close to New York, Mr. Nazareth asked. She assured him that it was, and that onward travel would be available, if that is where he hoped to settle. Yet he was surprised when he found himself on Martha’s Vineyard, a small, picturesque vacation destination in the Atlantic. “I thought I was coming to Boston,” he said. “I ended up on this little island.”
He also ended up in the middle of a political drama that escalated this week when Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas sent two busloads of migrants to Vice President Kamala Harris’s residence in Washington and Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida sent two planeloads of migrants to Martha’s Vineyard. Republican governors in border states have sent thousands of migrants to New York and Washington, arguing that Democratic enclaves whose leaders support more liberal immigration policies should share the responsibility of caring for them. That tactic is causing chaos in cities faced with unexpected arrivals, and changing the trajectory of the lives of individuals, like Mr. Nazareth.
Mr. Nazareth recalled that the woman he met at McDonald’s went table to table making the same offer. Before long, Mr. Nazareth and seven other Venezuelans climbed into a van driven by the woman to reach an airport hotel. More Venezuelans checked in over the following days, until about 50 were placed on charter flights on Wednesday that delivered them to Martha’s Vineyard.