A conservative advocacy organization headed by a former top Trump Administration official has sent several Island towns records requests seeking information about governmental efforts to help the migrants that were unknowingly dropped off at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport in September.

America First Legal Foundation, a nonprofit launched by Donald Trump’s senior policy advisor Stephen Miller, sent requests to Chilmark, Edgartown, West Tisbury and Dukes County over the past several months, asking for all records relating to money spent and goods and services provided to the migrants. The requests also seek any communications with several local entities such as Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, or emails that used keywords such as “refugee,” “migrants,” and “illegal alien.”

The group says it files requests under the Freedom of Information Act and related state records laws on issues of “pressing public concern” to then disseminate the information. Mr. Miller was the architect behind President Trump’s travel ban and policy of separating migrant children from their parents.

“Using our editorial skills to turn raw materials into distinct work, we distribute that work to a national audience through traditional and social media platforms,” America First Legal Foundation attorney Jacob Meckler wrote in one of the requests.

About 50 mostly Venezuelan migrants were flown to the Island last September from Texas in a political move engineered by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Their unexpected arrival prompted an Islandwide humanitarian response, and an informal network of local officials, nonprofit agencies, church groups and citizens quickly mobilized to find them emergency food and shelter.

Island town officials are either working to fulfill or have already responded to the requests for information about their role in the response. Under state law, municipal entities are required to provide certain public records upon request.

Chilmark received the records request in February and is still working to respond. Town administrator Tim Carroll said he wasn’t sure what the group was hoping to find, adding that his town was not heavily involved in response efforts.

“They were fishing,” Mr. Carroll said of America First Legal’s request.

At most, he spent some time answering the phones at the Dukes County Sheriff’s Office while they were dealing with the response, he said.

Edgartown, West Tisbury and Dukes County officials said they had received and responded to America First Legal’s request. Edgartown sent a 315-page response with hundreds of emails to and from town employees; West Tisbury had more than 60 pages; Dukes County also had several hundred pages.

The responses, provided to the Gazette by the towns and the county, include emails with news articles about the plane landings, correspondence from people both on and off the Island, press releases, inquiries from news agencies and communications from local officials and police about the local response.

Municipal organizations from other states reached out to Island officials asking about their experience so they could better prepare if flights came to their communities.

A county official in Summit County, Colorado wrote to Dukes County to see if the Vineyard could help them plan for potential migrant relocation to a winter hotspot.

“We are a smaller county with limited resources and we are also an international ski destination so there are some definite similarities between Summit and Dukes,” Summit County director of emergency management Brian Bovaird wrote in late September.

Closer to home, Cape municipal officials reached out to see if they could offer any aid.

CNN and other news organizations contacted local officials to talk about the flights. Some people from out-of-state wrote to chide Vineyard officials over their perceptions of how the Vineyard responded.

Town officials fielded offers from attorneys and others to help the migrants. According to the emails, they also set up Zoom calls to keep in touch about local efforts and stayed in contact with Nantucket, which was also on alert for potential migrant flights at the time.

The county said it had no expenses. Both Edgartown and West Tisbury told America First Legal they had no records for the costs to the towns.

“[Y]ou suggest that there are no records related to costs borne by the town in this matter,” Mr. Meckler wrote to Edgartown town administrator James Hagerty. “I would like to confirm that this is your contention, as a review of the records you provided shows extensive time was spent dealing with this, and also shows several emails related to potential reimbursements offered to the town.”

Mr. Hagerty responded again that the town had no records reflecting any services the town provided and their costs.

Town hall staff in Oak Bluffs, Tisbury and Aquinnah said they had not heard from America First Legal. 
“I haven’t received any such request,” said Jeff Madison, the Aquinnah town manager. 

But, as the Edgartown emails showed, towns did get a flurry of correspondence from people across the country about the immigrants’ arrival on the Island. Many had no understanding of how local government worked and accused officials of being racist after the migrants were transferred to Joint Base Cape Cod, according to Mr. Madison.

“They would address things to like the mayor of Martha’s Vineyard and address the Aquinnah town hall,” he said.

The America First Legal Foundation website says it’s dedicated to “fighting back against lawless executive actions and the Radical Left.”

In the past, Mr. Miller, who is on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s list of extremists, said the foundation was the “long-awaited answer to the ACLU.”

An email seeking additional information from the foundation was not immediately returned.