Not far from the beach, on an extensive property located on Martha’s Vineyard —a refuge for politicians and celebrities in the state of Massachusetts, in the United States—, Deici Cauro adjusted a baseball cap to avoid the scorching sun. She was crouched down, pulling weeds with her hands, when a familiar voice called from across the yard.
“Vases!” her mistress called, and motioned for Caurus to follow her to another nearby garden. “Let’s go?” Cauro replied in Spanish, wondering if they had decided to move. “Yes, ‘let’s’ I guess, whatever that means,” replied the boss, which made both of them laugh.
When Cauro fled Venezuela last summer, she had no idea that one day she would be working and living on a wealthy island south of Cape Cod, surrounded by boats and mansions the likes of which she had only seen in the movies.
It’s been nine months since the Florida government, under orders from Ron DeSantis, chartered two flights from Texas that took Cauro and 48 other newly arrived migrants to Martha’s Vineyard, a liberal enclave that until then had little direct experience with the outbreak. of immigrants at the US-Mexico border.
The policy move — repeated this month, when Florida officials organized two more flights of migrants from Texas, this time bound for California — was an attempt to force Democratic leaders many miles away to deal with a surge in migration that has affected the states along the border.
The trips have left many Venezuelans confused and alarmed. Some were told they were going to Boston or Seattle, where there would be plenty of jobs, assistance, and housing.
But none of these were the real destination; it was Martha’s Vineyard, and at the end of the busy summer season, when tourists start to come home to offices and schools. There were no jobs or places for them to stay. Volunteers installed the newcomers in a church and provided transport.
Within days, most of the migrants had gone to other parts of Massachusetts and places like New York, Washington and Michigan — cities better equipped than a small island to accommodate people who arrived with little or nothing.
Not all, however, left.
Cauro, 25, is one of at least four migrants who have remained discreetly on the island, forming bonds with a community that has opened every door it could. She works as a landscaper. Her brother Daniel, 29, and her cousin, Eliud Aguilar, 28, found jobs in painting and roofing.
They first lived in the homes of Martha’s Vineyard residents, invited by the owners. Then they started earning enough money to rent a two-bedroom house, with the four of them earning $1,000 (R$4,800,000) a month each. They move around the city on bicycles.
“I didn’t even know where Martha’s Vineyard was. And now I feel welcomed by everyone here. I’m working, making friends and this is my home now”, said Cauro with a broad smile. “This is my home now. I don’t want to leave.”
The Florida-organized flights came as the Republican governors of Texas and Arizona bused thousands of migrants away from the border, overwhelming aid systems in cities including New York, Washington and Chicago.
Many of the 49 migrants who were taken to Martha’s Vineyard are still struggling. Some have not yet obtained work permits, while many are still living in shelters, unable to afford permanent housing.
The four who managed to stay on the island also faced challenges. Cauro says she still finds it difficult to trust strangers after the deeply unsettling feeling of being left adrift by people who she now feels have made her and her relatives political pawns.
She says it’s important to pay her own expenses and not become a burden on her host community. Her boss, a 60-year-old woman who declined to be named for employing someone without a work visa, says she feels that Cauro is a member of the family.
Cauro understood enough to nod. “We came here to work on anything, no matter how hard it is. We’re happy to be living here.”
Not everyone welcomed the newcomers with open arms. A former resident, Angela Cywinski, claims the situation puts the community in a difficult position, trying to accommodate people who cannot legally be hired in restaurants or hotels. Most migrant workers on the island, she says, have invested the time and money necessary to obtain legal status.
Cywinski said he knows immigrants from Brazil who have spent up to US$60,000 (R$288,000) and waited years to obtain visas to legally live on the island. “It’s not fair when people cut in line,” she said.
Deici Cauro and others have had to find work behind the scenes until their work permits are approved, which usually takes several months as part of the asylum process.
Translated by Luiz Roberto M. Gonçalves