They are the result of the hard-line Republican’s approach to politics as he seeks re-election and looks ahead to a possible presidential campaign designed to appeal to a radical party that favors candidates who inspire anger.
In an earlier political era, DeSantis’ hopes for high office might have ended right there. Using desperate migrants fleeing repression and economic ruin in Venezuela as pawns in a power game hardly seems compatible with American ideals of welcoming poor and hungry people who want to breathe freely.
The storm over migrants on Martha’s Vineyard played exactly by the hard-line governor’s book — similar to previous controversies over sexuality education in schools, transgender athletes, face masks during the coronavirus pandemic and a vow to go after the nearly non-existent voter. fraud As in other cases, DeSantis took actions that some on the left and in the media considered extreme and beyond the pale. Then he appeared defiant on camera — not only owning his decision, but mocking those who turn criticism into even more fuel to increase his power and appeal to the GOP base. The image of an unapologetic conservative in the eyes of his critics is politically very effective, at least for now, as he is not in the eyes of a wider national electorate.
But some mysterious aspects of the episode remain, including that DeSantis, who runs Florida, arranged flights for migrants from Texas.
And there are growing indications that migrants sent to Martha’s Vineyard were tricked into persuading them to board planes. CNN’s Maria Santana reported, for example, that three migrants sent to the island were told by a woman named “Perla” that they would receive help with shelter and jobs when they arrived at their destination.
The Biden administration is offering Republicans an opening on immigration
DeSantis sending migrants may be inhumane. But it has its own hard logic.
He says cities like Washington, DC and states like Massachusetts are fueling the flow of migrants because they are not fully cooperating with immigration enforcement authorities. His disdain for “sanctuary” cities and states is shared by another Republican governor with a penchant for the politics of mistakes: Greg Abbott of Texas. Outspoken conservatives from the Lone Star State sent two new busloads of migrants to Washington, D.C., where they were parked outside the official residence of Vice President Kamala Harris on Thursday to make a similar point. Volunteers said they were ready to host the group at the city’s Union Station. It was unclear whether the change of destination was motivated by a desire to make a political splash that matched DeSantis’ influence.
There are several reasons to suggest that strategies have an effect. Eric Adams and Muriel Bowser, the Democratic mayors of New York and Washington, D.C., have said their cities are close to exceeding their ability to handle the influx of migrants sent by Republican governors. Such comments lend credence to warnings from border states that their resources are being overwhelmed by rising migrant crossings. However, publicity stunts like those by DeSantis and Abbott are doing little to actually solve a complex problem. Instead, they serve as a political launchpad, similar to the one that launched Trump into the White House in 2016.
But when it comes to solving the problem, the Biden administration is not innocent either. He has long struggled to find a way to talk about border security, which for all the right-wing hysteria is a real issue and one that worries many voters.
Harris, for example, said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the border was “secure,” a comment that echoes the views of many voters and evidence from the nearly 2 million border encounters reported by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. in the event that ends on September 30.
However, the right’s demagoguery of migrants only serves to further politicize the immigration issue that Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama tried to solve with a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers, created when conservatives on Capitol Hill were unwilling to compromise. In the volatile politics left by the Trump presidency, there is no chance that a serious immigration reform bill will pass at all.
DeSantis seeks to disparage the left
DeSantis left no doubt motivated by a desire to scorn liberal state officials and seek revenge on anti-Trump voters.
“All these people in DC and New York were beating their chests when (Donald) Trump was president, saying they were proud to be a sanctuary jurisdiction, saying how bad it was to have a secure border,” DeSantis said Thursday.
“The moment these border towns bring even a small fraction of what they deal with on a daily basis to their doorstep, they suddenly go crazy.”
However, while it is possible to see a coherent political strategy behind DeSantis and Abbott’s migrant transportation policies, it cannot be avoided that both governors are exploiting the tragedies of vulnerable people for political gain. Indeed, the Venezuelans taken to Martha’s Vineyard are victims of the vindictive socialist dictatorship that DeSantis routinely condemns.
They are desperate people, and whatever the merits of their asylum, they are being treated as a faceless group and not as individual human beings. Christina Pushaw, director of rapid response for the DeSantis re-election campaign, has left no doubt that they are mere props.
“The residents of Martha’s Vineyard should be excited about this. They vote for sanctuary cities, they get their own sanctuary city. And illegal aliens will increase the diversity of the town, that’s the strength. Right?” Pushaw tweeted.
However, if DeSantis was hoping to highlight hypocrisy on an island full of vacation homes among the mountains to the east, he was disappointed.
The people of Martha’s Vineyard didn’t go “hot,” as he put it. Instead, they went to help. Neighbors provided food, clothing and shelter, even though the DeSantis had not been notified in advance of the migrants’ arrival on Wednesday.
“We’ve lived through Covid. We’ve lived through hurricanes. We’ve been through this… Every single one of them we’ve risen as vines because we’re resilient,” Edgartown City Administrator James. Hagerty told CNN’s Miguel Marquez.
“We take care of ours, we take care of the community, we help people.”
The White House has denounced the “cruel” migrant transport plan
Democrats were quick to take advantage of the coolness of DeSantis and Abbott’s tactics, even at the risk of providing more grist for the conservative media’s mill.
“What they’re doing is an illegal act, it’s a policy. And it’s really just a lack of respect for humanity,” said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. “It’s just cruel.”
David Leopold, legal counsel for America’s Voice, an immigration advocacy group, said: “The forcible transfer of the civilian population is a crime against humanity. And human trafficking is a serious federal crime in the US. – democratic totalitarian leader.”
Documentarian Ken Burns also sensed an insidious political motivation on DeSantis’ part.
“It’s basically saying you can use a human life … and put it in a position to be a political pawn in somebody’s authoritarian game,” Burns said on CNN’s “New Day.”
While it is clear that these migrants are being used as pawns, the human trafficking accusations do not take into account that some migrants accept the possibility of being transported beyond border states and deeper into the United States before appointments with immigration and asylum authorities. hearings that may take months or years.
But the Republican reaction to the drama on Martha’s Vineyard underscored the electrifying effect it has on the GOP base.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who is running for re-election and was once a supporter of comprehensive immigration reform, strongly backed DeSantis.
“Immigration is a federal responsibility that this administration is not fulfilling. A few communities and states bear the brunt of it,” Rubio told reporters. “And so if a migrant voluntarily — that’s in most cases, not all — a migrant offers to go to another part of the country voluntarily, I think it’s perfectly reasonable for a state to help.”
As Rubio understands, any Republican who wants a future in the party needs to talk tough about immigration. As such, Abbott and DeSantis’ recent migrant shipments to liberal jurisdictions are unlikely to be the last such blunders.