Immigration is the last thing about it.
If conservatives really wanted to fix immigration, they could have done it years ago. To be sure, the broad outlines of a viable recovery have long been clear: a combination of tougher border security, a guest worker program, streamlining the immigration process and creating a path to citizenship for immigrants who came here illegally.
In fact, President Bush in 2006 proposed a plan almost along these lines. “I know this is an emotional debate,” he pleaded with his fellow Republicans. “But one thing we can’t lose sight of is that we’re talking about human beings, decent human beings who need to be treated with respect.”
Republican senators were unmoved, and the plan died in Congress. As for treating immigrants with respect, the GOP has made it a point of pride to do the opposite, from caging them like animals to taking away their children. Now comes last week’s chicanery from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. At his behest, 48 immigrants—most, if not all, from Venezuela. Most, if not all, of the asylum seekers — approached by a woman in tiny Eagle Pass, Texas, say they were taken with the promise of boarding two chartered planes where they could find jobs and immigration. Help will come.
Instead they were taken to Martha’s Vineyard where they wound up walking around with child-friendly maps that had been issued to them in Texas. It was a stunt by DeSantis that was recently favored by the Republican governors of Arizona and Texas. He was putting immigrants on buses, but he went ahead by chartering planes at a cost to taxpayers of $615,000, or $12,812 per person. At this writing, a commercial flight from San Antonio to Vineyard is $329. Just you know.
And remember, Florida has no international land borders. But apparently, the stunt was too tempting for DeSantis to let a little geography get in his way. He reached halfway across the country, in fact, to abduct dozens of people in what his office calls a “relocation program to drive illegal immigrants to safety.” In GOP circles, apparently that’s what passes for common sense.
You’d need a deadly sense of humor to find any of this funny, so it was likely knee-jerk for its intended audience of perpetually harried white conservatives. That’s why DeSantis gave the stunt to Fox “News” exclusively. That is why the Vineyard—the tony summer playground of wealthy liberals—was chosen and no official there was notified that the flights were coming.
Confused immigrants land on an unprepared coastal town. Humor ensues.
Never mind that De Saints targeted vulnerable people. Or that immigration lawyers say his stunt could complicate their asylum claims. Again, this is not about immigration. It is about oppression as a political strategy. After all, if you solve a problem, you can no longer benefit from it. But don’t let it settle and you can use it to pander to the sentiments of your target audience—like white people who are horrified at the browning of America—and drive them to the polls.
Few things could be of more interest to DeSantis, whose presidential ambitions are an open secret. Sure enough, he received a standing ovation from the party faithful in Kansas a few days later. It was a vivid picture of the moral turpitude and decay of character that now defines the Republican Party. They should be ashamed of themselves, but they won’t be.
He had lost the capacity for it long ago.
Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for the Miami Herald. ©2022 Miami Herald. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.
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