When migrants become political pawns

By | September 25, 2022

Jelani Cobb writes:

The calcified cruelty, malignant politics, and questionable legality of the decisions by Governors Greg Abbott, of Texas, and Ron DeSantis, of Florida, to transport dozens of migrants in Texas to unsuspecting locales in Massachusetts and Washington, D.C., reiterate the point—often made in recent years—that the only check on the behavior of the current Republican Party is the limits of its own imagination. Most of the migrants reportedly came from Venezuela, a country so racked with discord that an estimated twenty per cent of its population has been displaced. One man said that he arrived after having spent three months trekking across several countries. Many people recounted being offered free accommodations and flights to cities where they thought they would be guaranteed work.

Instead, they were dispatched on two chartered planes, arranged at DeSantis’s behest, and unceremoniously released on Martha’s Vineyard, the resort island just off the coast of Massachusetts which DeSantis called a “sanctuary jurisdiction.” Others were bused to Washington, D.C., and left outside the grounds of the U.S. Naval Observatory, where Vice-President Kamala Harris lives, as part of a program that Abbott, who is running for a third term, enacted this spring. Texas has bused more than eight thousand migrants to Washington, New York City, and Chicago, at a cost to the state of more than twelve million dollars. Arizona, under the Republican governor Doug Ducey, has also sent more than a thousand migrants to the nation’s capital. All three governors plan to continue the transportations.

Implicit in their actions is the idea that Northern, liberal attitudes regarding immigration are undergirded by the fact that the places where Northern liberals live aren’t being inundated with people who enter the country without documentation. Governor DeSantis appeared to be attempting to troll people whose magnanimity, he seemed to believe, is inversely proportional to the extent to which a given problem has an impact on their own lives. Indeed, much of the discussion on the right about the immigration crisis tends to frame it as a “border crisis,” erroneously suggesting both that the sole driver of the number of people arriving is the porousness of the Southern border and that this issue falls squarely on the shoulders of the states in the South and the Southwest. DeSantis has frequently complained about an undue burden on the border states, and expressed concern that migrants arriving in those states really want to move to his. As reported on NPR, he said, “What we’re trying to do is profile: ‘O.K., who do you think is trying to get to Florida?’ ” What seems not to have been factored into this thinking is that, before the most recent crackdowns, Florida, though not a border state, nevertheless had a long tradition of welcoming certain migrants—provided that they were fleeing Fidel Castro’s Cuba. [Continue reading…]

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