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Madison Czopek
By Madison Czopek September 21, 2022

Claim that Martha’s Vineyard ‘deported’ migrants is wrong

If Your Time is short

  • Deportations occur when people are removed from the United States and sent back to their country of origin or, in some cases, to a third country. The approximately 50 migrants who were flown to the island of Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts were not removed from the United States. 

  • Local governments and municipalities cannot carry out deportations, according to a legal expert.

After spending two days on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, approximately 50 migrants, most of whom are from Venezuela, were moved to mainland Massachusetts on Sept. 16.

They weren’t deported, contrary to claims circulating on social media.

"Martha’s Vineyard leftists declared (a) humanitarian crisis and deported 50 illegals after only 24 hours," read one Sept. 15 Instagram post, which featured footage of a moving bus.

(Screenshot from Instagram.)

The Gateway Pundit, a conservative website, shared the same footage in an article that had a similarly misleading headline: "THAT WAS QUICK: Buses Arrive at Martha’s Vineyard and DEPORT Illegals Off the Island." The article was shared widely on Facebook. 

These posts were flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

The claims mislead by misusing the term "deported."

Deportation refers to removal from the country, not relocation within the state

Deportations "are removals to an individual’s country of origin or, in some cases, to a third country," said Monika Langarica, a staff attorney at the Center for Immigration Law and Policy at the UCLA School of Law. 

"Movement between states or regions within the United States is not a deportation," she said.

On Sept. 16, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration announced plans to shelter the migrants and provide access to necessary resources at Joint Base Cape Cod in Barnstable County, Massachusetts.

This video provied by the Massachusetts National Guard shows the dorms where immigrants will be staying at Joint Base Cape Cod.

Martha’s Vineyard residents worked with local and state officials to provide temporary shelter and necessities when the migrants arrived. But, long-term, Baker said "the island communities are not equipped to provide sustainable accommodation, and state officials developed a plan to deliver a comprehensive humanitarian response."

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He said the state would offer transportation to the temporary shelter on the base and emphasized that the move from Martha’s Vineyard to the neighboring county would be "voluntary." 

Langarica said only the Department of Homeland Security or an immigration judge within the Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review can deport migrants.

"Local governments or municipalities do not order or effect deportations," she said. 

The migrants who arrived in Martha’s Vineyard were likely released by Customs and Border Protection after initial screening for asylum eligibility near San Antonio, according to news reports and experts.

Muzaffar Chishti, senior fellow at the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute, told PolitiFact that when immigrants are released at the border, they don't enter state custody. While they await their immigration case hearings, many immigrants receive shelter from nonprofit organizations or travel to other states and cities within the U.S. where they have friends or family. 

As of Sept. 19, some of the migrants had left Joint Base Cape Cod for New York City, where they had relatives or friends waiting, the local NPR station reported.

Officials didn’t declare the situation a ‘humanitarian crisis’

Despite the post’s claim, there’s no indication that government officials in Massachusetts or Dukes County, where Martha’s Vineyard is located, declared a "humanitarian crisis" because of the migrants’ arrival.

A Sept. 15 tweet from the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce provided "an update on (the) current humanitarian crisis on Martha’s Vineyard." The tweet linked to a press release from the Dukes County Emergency Management Association that addressed the "Martha’s Vineyard humanitarian response," but made no mention of a "crisis."

Additionally, Baker’s statements about the situation make no reference to a "humanitarian crisis."

Our ruling

An Instagram post claimed that Martha’s Vineyard "deported 50 illegals after only 24 hours."

Deportations occur when people are removed from the United States and sent back to their country of origin or, in some cases, to a third country. The approximately 50 migrants who were flown to Martha’s Vineyard were not removed from the United States. 

We rate this claim False.

RELATED: What we know about DeSantis flying migrants to Martha's Vineyard

RELATED: In Context: What a Martha’s Vineyard homeless shelter coordinator said about migrant housing

Our Sources

Email interview with Monika Y. Langarica, a staff attorney at the Center for Immigration Law and Policy at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law, Sept. 20, 2022

Visit Martha’s Vineyard tweet, Sept. 15, 2022

Fox News, Martha's Vineyard's 'humanitarian crisis' is just 0.0025% of the border crisis, Sept. 16, 2022

Gateway Pundit, That was quick: Buses arrive at Martha’s Vineyard and DEPORT illegals off the island, Sept. 16, 2022

NPR Cape and Islands, Migrants at the Base: here's how they're set up and what comes next, Sept. 19, 2022, Deportation, accessed Sept. 20, 2022, Press release Baker-Polito administration announces coordinated support for newly arriving families and individuals to the commonwealth, Sept. 16, 2022, Press release Baker-Polito administration provides update regarding emergency response plan for migrants sheltering at Joint Base Cape Cod, Sept. 18, 2022 

Cape Cod Times, Migrants flown to Martha's Vineyard may move to Cape Cod military base: What we know, Sept. 15, 2022

Mass Live, Migrants flown to Martha’s Vineyard will be offered shelter at Joint Base Cape Cod shelter, Sept. 16, 2022

NPR, After migrants arrived in Martha's Vineyard, a community gathered to welcome them, Sept. 16, 2022

CNN, The migrants sent to Martha’s Vineyard will be voluntarily taken to a military base for shelter and support, Sept 16, 2022

Martha’s Vineyard Times, Migrants land on Martha’s Vineyard, Sept. 14, 2022

CNN, DeSantis claims credit for sending 2 planes carrying migrants to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, Sept. 15, 2022

WBUR, On Martha's Vineyard, Venezuelan migrants and islanders bid fond farewells, Sept. 16, 2022

The New York Times, Florida flies 2 planeloads of migrants to Martha’s Vineyard, Sept. 16, 2022

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Claim that Martha’s Vineyard ‘deported’ migrants is wrong

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