DeSantis’s Martha’s Vineyard Stunt
This is just playing crass political games with human beings.
“Yes, Florida can confirm the two planes with illegal immigrants that arrived in Martha’s Vineyard today were part of the state’s relocation program to transport illegal immigrants to sanctuary destinations,” the governor’s communications director, Taryn Fenske, told Fox News Digital.
“States like Massachusetts, New York and California will better facilitate the care of these individuals who they have invited into our country by incentivizing illegal immigration through their designation as ‘sanctuary states’ and support for the Biden administration’s open border policies,” she said.
Fox News Digital reported in April that Florida’s budget since approved by the state legislature included $12 million for the Florida Department of Transportation to remove illegal immigrants from the state and relocate them.
More details on this story, including accounts of the deceptive way these people were lured to be flown to Massachusetts can be found via NPR’s Morning Edition: Fla. Gov. DeSantis sent migrant flights to Massachusetts, his office says. Weirdly, the migrants were not in Florida, but were in a shelter in San Antonio, TX:
The plane arrived out of the blue on a sunny afternoon. The passengers, men, women and children, almost all from Venezuela, arrived at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport. They had boarded the plane earlier that day in San Antonio. Officials were not informed ahead of their arrival. Once on the ground in Massachusetts, local authorities and nonprofits scrambled to feed and house them. Lisa Del Castro, who runs the island’s homeless shelter, said resources were scarce at first.
Three migrants each separately described to NPR how they were lured onto the plane with promises of help getting work. Each of the three were told they were being flown to Boston and that, once they were there, they could more quickly get work because they were told it is a sanctuary city. Andres Duarte, a 30-year-old Venezuelan, said he had recently crossed the border into Texas and eventually went to a shelter in San Antonio. A woman who he and other migrants identified only as Perla approached them outside the shelter. They say she arranged for some of them to stay at a hotel, offered them food and then got them on a plane.
By the way, since Venezuela is one of the countries that the American right uses as a great bogeyman, it seems odd to pick on potential refugees from a country that is very much experiencing an economic disaster (but logic and reason are hardly the core of the actions being described herein).
Let me underscore that the main incentive for immigrants coming to the US is that they are seeking better lives for themselves and their families. And while we can debate the notion of sanctuary cities, the odds that such are primary drivers of migrant flows is rather absurd. Indeed, even mentioning them is just evidence of how all of this is red meat politics. The jobs migrants can get are the main incentive, and many of those jobs are in Texas and other Republican-controlled states (if that is the game that DeSantis wants to play). But, of course, the over-arching incentives are difficult to remove and the failure at setting a national policy to address the complexities of the issue is both long-standing and bipartisan (although so as to note that I am not just both-sidesing this, at least the Democrats aren’t trying to scapegoat and demonize immigrants).
Regardless, while there might some legitimate debate to be had concerning the burden of unauthorized immigration into the US on border states, the solution to such inequities should be addressed by the federal government via the federal legislature, not via stunts at the state level. This isn’t even Florida sending persons in Florida to other states, it is Florida sending persons in Texas to other states. It is absurd as any kind of policy or as an act of responsible governance.
Beyond any of that, and central to why this story should be highlighted: we are talking about human beings here. It is flatly grotesque and inhumane to use humans, especially extremely vulnerable ones, as pawns in a political game.
This is all made the worse by the fact that not that long ago, DeSantis was stoking fears about “secret flights” when the Biden administration was moving underaged immigrants around the country to alleviate pressure on border states. Here’s a Fox News story along those lines from November of last year: Florida gov says Biden admin has landed dozens of secret flights carrying illegal migrants into the state. These stories made it sound like the Biden administration was just dumping migrants around the country in some nefarious secret plan. Yet, as NPR reported in June: ‘Ghost flights’ are the latest GOP effort to weaponize immigration ahead of midterms
“There’s no warning,” said Florida Governor Ron DeSantis at a press conference last week. “It’s just in the middle of the night. And then you’ll wake up and someone will say, ‘they brought a bunch of unaccompanied minors.'”
But federal officials insist that these flights happened exactly the same way during previous administrations, including under former President Trump.
“This is completely consistent with the law and our responsibilities,” said Jorge Silva, a deputy assistant secretary for public affairs at U.S. Health and Human Services, in a statement. “Our legal responsibility is to care for unaccompanied children while they are on our watch, and that includes connecting them to vetted sponsors.”
Federal officials say that flights carrying migrant children happen at all hours, and that they don’t release information about the children on board to protect their privacy. Even the contractor operating the charter flights hasn’t changed since the Trump administration, they note.
What has changed is that the number of unaccompanied children crossing the border reached an all-time high last year, topping 100,000 for the first time. And immigrant advocates say the amount of fear-mongering about them is rising too, in a way that’s “really just divorced from reality and from facts,” Nagda said.
Look, I fully understand that all of this is DeSantis just stirring the base, so trying to talk about actual public policy solutions is almost pointless, but this whole thing is beyond galling. Dumping human beings in various liberal-leaning states to basically own the libs for TV purposes is grotesque. Again, these are people. That there are poor, likely have brown skin, and don’t speak English doesn’t make it okay to treat them like objects.
When I see things like this, it is hard not to think of the following, especially since a lot of the base DeSantis seeks to please are likely self-identified Christians.
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne.
All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
One need not adhere to the Christian faith to appreciate these sentiments.**
If GOP politicians don’t like to be referred to as “semi-fascist” they shouldn’t treat a group of people like sub-human pawns nor should they engage in pure power moves just to score political points. And, likewise, those in the public who relish these kinds of actions need to engage in self-reflection (note that my expectations are not high on this count.***
This really is indefensible behavior. Again: human beings and vulnerable ones at that.
Can we have differing, legitimate policy positions on how to deal with immigration and refugees? Of course we can, but no one should be allowed to pretend like tricking vulnerable people into boarding a plane to be taken two thousand miles to a place unprepared to help them is a legitimate policy position.
It is cruelty and a clear case where the cruelty is very much the point.
Update: FWIW, I had not seen Jonathan V. Last’s Bulwark post until after I had written and posted the above. But he had very similar thoughts about both the cruelty of it all and the clear betrayal of core Christian principles evidenced in DeSantis’ behavior.
*I see that James Joyner also noted this story in Thursday’s Tabs. I started writing this before his post, but was unable to come back to finish until much later–also why I am only seeing the discussion in that thread now.
**Sentiments that I have to mischievously note sound pretty damn woke to me.
***Dare I note another woke notion: that we should treat others as we would like to be treated, as some long-haired social justice warrior once said.