Thursday, October 6, 2022
Oct. 6, 2022

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In Our View: Reject stunts by solving immigration problems

The Columbian
Published:

You might have missed it among the breathless commentary about the stunt, but Western Washington got dragged into Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ cruel immigration ploy last week.

After migrants were flown from Texas to the tony enclave of Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, immigration attorney Rachel Self laid out the callousness of the act:

“They were told there was a surprise present for them, and that there would be jobs and housing awaiting for them when they arrived. This was obviously a sadistic lie,” Self told a throng of reporters.

The migrants were given falsified U.S. addresses by immigration officials, a tactic that could jeopardize their chances of winning immigration cases and staying in the country. Self said at least one person was given a mailing address of a Tacoma homeless shelter before being flown to the East Coast. Migrants seeking asylum are instructed to quickly check in with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office nearest their address.

“There is no other reason to list as someone’s mailing address a homeless shelter in Tacoma, Washington, when they ship him to Massachusetts,” Self said. “It is sickeningly cruel throwing obstacles in the way of people fleeing violence and oppression, some of whom walked through 10 countries in the hopes of finding safety.”

A DeSantis spokesperson said, “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.”

If that truly were the goal, why give the migrants an address more than 3,000 miles away? It is, indeed, sickeningly cruel. But cruelty seems to be the point.

As the St. Louis Post-Dispatch noted editorially, the stunt echoes the strategy of segregationists in the 1960s. The paper points out: “What’s particularly strange about his ploy is that he had to import migrants from Texas for the flight since Florida doesn’t border Mexico and, therefore, doesn’t have a border problem.”

Also, it should be noted, residents of Martha’s Vineyard and state officials quickly rallied to provide support for the migrants, finding food and shelter and working on long-term logistics.

DeSantis’ stunt is performative politics at its most banal, infantile and callous, an attempt to give him cachet with MAGA voters. And for many Americans, the ploy is a feature and not a bug in his presidential aspirations.

But in addition to sparking debate and raising DeSantis’ profile, the rounding up of migrants in Texas by a Florida governor to fly them to Massachusetts could have long-term benefits. Members of Congress — both Republicans and Democrats — have ignored immigration policy and border security for far too long.

The overriding sentiment: Instead of solving a problem, it is better to let it fester and use it as a campaign wedge. That has poorly served the country.

Securing the border, streamlining the processing of migrants, establishing national E-Verify standards (Florida does not require the system, which tells employers whether a person can legally work in this country), protecting immigrants brought here as children and providing a pathway to citizenship are the duties of Congress, not the president or a presidential aspirant.

Thoughtful actions — not sophomoric stunts — are necessary to redefine U.S. immigration policy from Western Washington to Martha’s Vineyard.

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