Saturday, September 23, 2023

The Consequences of DeSantis’ Plan to Send Migrants to Martha’s Vineyard

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Shreya Christina
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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has been issue state funds sending migrants to democratic cities for months in an attempt to score political points against the Biden administration’s border policies. But after dozens of migrants flew to Martha’s Vineyard as part of Florida’s copycat program last week, controversy over the plan reached a head.

Now the policy is being challenged in federal court and is the subject of a criminal investigation. Those legal issues could eventually halt the GOP’s efforts to continue transporting migrants to Democratic strongholds, though Republicans have already managed to draw national attention to the border, raising it as an interim issue.

On Tuesday, three of the 48 Venezuelan migrants sent to Martha’s Vineyard from San Antonio were sued Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and other Florida officials on behalf of their group. They accuse DeSantis of carrying out “a premeditated, fraudulent and illegal scheme … for the sole purpose of furthering their own personal, financial and political interests.”

Meanwhile, Texas authorities are investigating whether the migrants were victims of a crime. “Someone came from out of state, fell for these people, lured them with promises of a better life,” Sheriff Javier Salazar said in a statement. press conference monday.

DeSantis does not indicate that he will stop. There were reports on Tuesday that he planned to charter more flights to send migrants to Delaware, near President Joe Biden’s vacation home. DeSantis declined to confirm his plans; White House and Delaware officials prepared for the possible arrival of the migrants, though they never came.

The scheme is the brainchild of Abbott and one that Arizona Governor Doug Ducey has replicated, but DeSantis has been the one in the headlines lately. That’s by design. He is currently in a competitive race for re-election with his Democratic opponent, former Florida governor Charlie Crist, and has used the stunt to try to revive border security as a major problem in the meantime. On Monday he brought a new campaign ad featuring a mother whose son died in a car accident with an unauthorized immigrant in a critique of Biden’s border policy.

Voters do not consider immigration to be one of their top priorities at the national level; it’s lagging inflation, jobs, the economy and abortion in Florida. But while immigration in general isn’t a top issue for Floridians, it ranks 3rd among the state’s Republicans, according to a recent survey. AARP/FabrizioWard/Impact Research Poll. So suggests DeSantis, who is also reportedly ready for a 2024 presidential runseeks to bolster its aggressive credentials on immigration and replicate former President Donald Trump’s success in boosting the GOP base and donors by moving from tough immigration and border security defining issue of his campaign.

To do this, however, he has uprooted people who now say they were tricked into flying to a remote part of Massachusetts. And that can lead to legal problems.

The possible legal consequences

The migrants’ lawsuit alleges that they were essentially scammed into agreeing to travel to Martha’s Vineyard aboard two flights chartered by Florida officials. The flights cost over $600,000 in tax money.

They allege that DeSantis and other officials in Florida had plans to target migrants on the street outside a migrant shelter in San Antonio, Texas, by offering McDonald’s gift cards and free hotel stays and promising them work, housing, education and other assistance if they do. board flights to other states. Salazar said Monday that a Venezuelan migrant has been given a “bird dog allowance” to recruit them.

They claim they were told they were going to Boston or Washington DC, but were instead taken to Martha’s Vineyard, where they found such wells and not even food or water until the locals came to the rescue of the unexpected arrivals. They were later moved to a military base shelter at Cape Cod.

The migrants accuse DeSantis and the other officials of unreasonably seizing them, violating their Fourth Amendment rights, and causing them to board a plane across state lines on fraudulent grounds, thereby limiting their right to individual rights. freedom is violated. They asked a judge to bar DeSantis and the other officials from “inducing immigrants to travel across state lines through fraud and misrepresentation” and are also seeking damages, although it is not clear who should pay for those damages.

Both Abbott and DeSantis have claimed that the migrants were never misled. Instead, DeSantis tried to shift the blame to the Biden administration, which he says treated migrants in a press conference on Tuesday.”terrible.”

“I think it opens people’s eyes to the solution, which is let’s have a safe border,” he told reporters. “The biggest stunt was Biden coming in as president and reversing Trump’s policies.” (Notably, Biden has left in place one of the defining border policies of the Trump era: the Title 42 policy.)

The migrants’ lawsuit contains no allegations of criminal misconduct. Texas investigators have not named any suspects in connection with their investigation, but that investigation could lead to criminal charges. State legislators in Massachusetts, California, Governor Gavin Newsom, and Latino rights groups have also called for a federal probe in the scheme to investigate it as possible human trafficking or kidnapping. Such an investigation has not yet been announced.

If the migrants are found to be victims of a crime, it could make it easier for them to stay in the US. Salazar said all migrants sent to Martha’s Vineyard had been released from federal custody. Before the flight, they were all legal in the US while pending their asylum applications. This would instead make them eligible to apply for a “U-visa,” a humanitarian visa available to crime victims. That visa would allow them to stay in the US for four years with work permits, to apply for permanent residency after three years, and also allow their family members to apply for a visa.

How the Biden Administration Responds

The Biden administration has largely dodged questions about how it plans to respond to DeSantis’ plan, viewing it as a problem invented by Republicans for political purposes. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Tuesday that DeSantis’ “sole purpose, as he has made it very clear, is to create chaos and use immigrants fleeing communism as political pawns.”

“It’s about making political theater for him. It’s not about finding a solution,” she added.

But this immediate controversy belies a deeper problem, which is that red states are openly defying federal immigration policy and taking matters into their own hands. This has not only political consequences, but also operational consequences. Homeland Security Minister Alejandro Mayorkas said in August that “unilateral” efforts by Abbott and others to harden border crossings “wreak havoc” because they could disrupt law enforcement goals and create a situation where the US has multiple, incompatible immigration policies.

In general, Democrats don’t like to talk about immigration, which has long been considered the “America’s Third Rail Politics”, and especially not in the immediate weeks leading up to a by-election in which they are in cautiously optimistic on limiting Republican profits. But burying their heads in the sand on a divisive topic may not be the best defense given the current reality on the border.

The number of times officials encountered migrants at the US-Mexico border this fiscal year exceeded 2 million a historic high from August. Those numbers are being driven by record levels of migration from Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua — marking a shift away from the predominantly Mexican, Guatemalan, Honduran and Salvadoran migratory flows that were typical of the pandemic.

Those numbers have been inflated because many migrants have been caught trying to cross the border multiple times as a result of a Trump-era pandemic policy known as Title 42, which has eliminated any adverse legal consequences.

That policy allows the federal government to ban non-citizens from entering the US “in the interest of public health.” Trump claimed it helped reduce the spread of Covid-19. Biden chose to keep title 42 in place for now and used it to oust more than a million migrants this fiscal year, despite there being recently declared the pandemic over and that many medical professionals say the policy does nothing to protect public health.

Part of the Biden administration’s reliance on Trump-era policies stems from the fact that it allows the federal government to quickly and easily expel migrants; it is a way of avoiding the formidable operational and humanitarian challenge posed by immigration.

Biden insists he has proposed a solution; Jean-Pierre noted on Tuesday that Biden had introduced a comprehensive immigration reform bill, but the reality is that Democrats don’t have the numbers they need to pass it in the Senate. That means any action Biden wants to take should come through the executive branch — and in a way that won’t cause political backlash for Democrats and won’t be constrained by the courts, which have repeatedly stood in the way of his efforts to roll back Trump-era policies and establish new immigration enforcement priorities.

It is quite a task and the administration does not seem to have been able to solve it. And that — plus voters’ concerns about other issues — have left a vacuum in which GOP governors have used migrants to whip up their bases.


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