© 2024 KOSU
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

We should not being using human beings as pawns, Mass. state Sen. Cyr says


Fox News was all over this story where host Jesse Watters dwelled on the idea of elite liberals having to deal with migrants. He spoke with presidential hopeful Mike Pompeo.


JESSE WATTERS: The Obamas have a home. Oprah, Beyonce, even James Taylor is going to be seeing fire, rain and migrants - not to mention Rosie O'Donnell. I mean, everybody basically that you know on the left has a home there. Do you think they're going to be embracing their new neighbors?

MIKE POMPEO: You know, these are all sanctuary cities until they're in their sanctuary.


POMPEO: I doubt they'll embrace them.

INSKEEP: Let's hear a voice next from Martha's Vineyard. Massachusetts State Senator Julian Cyr represents the island. Welcome to the program.

JULIAN CYR: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: OK, so the presumption of the bit we just heard is that migrants are a burden and that you don't want them, that you just want to force Texas to deal with them. Is that in fact how you feel?

CYR: That's not at all how we feel in Martha's Vineyard and across the region. And if you look at the outpouring of support, how the island scrambled and pulled together shelter for these 47 migrant families with no notice, we actually, I think, are proud to welcome these vulnerable people. You know, I know for folks who don't know Martha's Vineyard, we're seen as this - you know, as Governor DeSantis said, a bastion of liberal elites. You know, most islanders who live here year-round wait on tables. They're firefighters. They're teachers. The population actually on Martha's Vineyard has increased almost 50% since the last census, largely actually driven by immigrants. The diversity that we have in our schools - nearly a dozen languages spoken in our schools. So, you know, these folks, of course, don't - you know, don't sort of appreciate, you know, what we are year-round. But the response and the welcome here has been nothing short of remarkable.

INSKEEP: I'm interested in this because I was hearing this argument that Texas has the whole burden or that Florida has the whole burden. And I looked at a map of where immigrants live, and they seem to be in every state of the union, but - and that's what you're confirming to me. You have a very diverse population where you are already. Is that correct?

CYR: We do, and we've become more and more diverse. Immigrants have been coming to our community. In part, we've got a bit of a - we've got a workforce crisis here. We really rely - immigrants have really become sort of the backbone of our economy here. And we've been in the business of welcoming immigrants. I think the problem here - right? - is that there was no sort of facilitation of transport. This is not about, you know, alleviating burden for border communities or helping these people, right? These are people who were caught up in a calculated political stunt. The intention - right? - is political, not helping these people and not in helping border communities. And that's just shameful.

INSKEEP: What did you see and hear when you spoke with them?

CYR: I saw - I spent, you know, quite a bit of time, as did, you know, a number of colleagues and volunteers. Volunteers built up a wonderful shelter in a church in Edgartown, which is one of our villages here on the island. We heard a lot of gratitude from these migrant families. I had asked one of them, you know, did you feel manipulated? Did you feel tricked? And they said, yes, we felt tricked, but we were so overwhelmed by the response that we've seen here. One woman, you know, described to me that she felt like she had been kidnapped. So certainly they've had quite a perilous journey but a lot of gratitude to islanders and to the people of Massachusetts who, you know, are rallying to support them and to welcome them.

INSKEEP: There is, I suppose, a political reality here that is reflected by this stunt, that there is a cost to dealing with migrants. There can be some difficulty. There are a lot of people coming, and there are voters who feel uncomfortable about that. And you have politicians who want to represent those voters. What would you say to those voters who have those concerns?

CYR: I appreciate the challenges that we have at the border. You know, look, we've had a failed immigration - the failure of immigration reform at the national level. You know, that's on both, you know, Republicans and Democrats, right? But - you know, something we haven't done for years, but this isn't the way to go about having states that are not border states helping out in this crisis, right? And this really harkened back to fundamentally racist tactics that we've seen used. We've seen this used in the civil rights era with Reverse Freedom Rides, actually bringing people to Cape Cod. And we're seeing that today. And unfortunately, this is just really a cruel ruse that's manipulating families who are seeking a better life. And I just think our politics should be better than that. We should not be using human beings as pawns.

INSKEEP: I guess we should remind people this is correct, what you're saying - that in the 1960s, Black people were put on buses and sent North, the presumption being that Northerners would hate being around Black people and that they would get a taste of their own medicine. That was tried then, and you're saying the same thing is being done now.

CYR: Yes. And then in the '60s, those families were welcomed. Ninety-six families were sent to Hyannis in the 1960s, and they actually were welcomed, were - helped found housing, became part of our community on Cape Cod, right? So that was a political stunt then, and it backfired. And I think we're hoping the same outcome happens now with this sad situation.

INSKEEP: State Senator Julian Cyr, thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

KOSU is nonprofit and independent. We rely on readers like you to support the local, national, and international coverage on this website. Your support makes this news available to everyone.

Give today. A monthly donation of $5 makes a real difference.