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Seven weeks from election day, migrants at the center of political theater : NPR


Florida Governor Ron DeSantis greets her arrival for a September 7 press conference.

Rebecca Blackwell/AP


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Rebecca Blackwell/AP

Seven weeks from election day, migrants at the center of political theater : NPR

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis greets her arrival for a September 7 press conference.

Rebecca Blackwell/AP

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis took a victory lap over the weekend for his controversial flight sending migrants to Tony Island in northeast Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.

“It’s a crisis. It gets a little more attention,” DeSantis said in Kansas during a stop on a tour organized by conservative group Turning Point Action.

It’s no coincidence that DeSantis’ stunt came days before his stops in Kansas and Wisconsin, where he campaigned for Republican candidates. His political ambitions are well known. He has become a conservative darling and potential heir to the MAGA brand – a more disciplined version of former President Donald Trump, who continues to strongly suggest he will run for president in 2024.

DeSantis is also up for re-election in Florida this year. And nothing inflames the Republican base like immigration. Trump used anti-immigrant rhetoric to propel himself to the top of the GOP presidency in 2015.

“I think he got what he wanted out of it: more visibility for the issue,” said Danny Diaz, a Republican strategist who led former Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s 2016 presidential campaign. . “And the reality is that for about half the country, they’re totally on board.”

DeSantis hinted that was his goal in his two stops over the weekend. He said more people are paying attention to the issue now and it’s “on the ballot”. Judging by the media coverage his move received, it worked.

There is, however, a risk of potentially alienating voters who consider this decision unserious by not addressing the core issue and using migrants as political pawns. The migrants, who made the journey, said they felt “lied to”, “cheated” and “used for political purposes”.

“We didn’t think these people would be so cruel, so cold to do this to us,” Elid Aguilar, 27, of Venezuela, told San Antonio. Report.

The move echoes the Reverse Freedom Rides of the 1960s, set up by white supremacists who persuaded poor black families in the South to board buses for Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

A Texas sheriff said late Monday he was opening a criminal investigation into what happened.

“What we understand is that a Venezuelan migrant was paid a bird dog fee to recruit 50 migrants who were then lured – and I’ll use the word ‘lured’ under false pretenses – to stay. in a hotel for a few days, then taken on a plane where they were flown to Florida and then Martha’s Vineyard under false pretenses of being offered jobs,” said Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar, a Democrat. “For what we can muster, little more than a photo shoot, a video shoot, and then they were left there.”

The migrants were at the Bexar County Migrant Resource Center, where San Antonio is located.

Diaz said he views what DeSantis and other Republican governors are doing by sending migrants to more liberal states and municipalities as an effort to energize the grassroots.

“At this point, 50 days from an election, with people entrenched on either side and the vast majority of independents having a gloomy view of the economy and both sides looking to energize their bases,” Diaz said, “ it’s sort of the standard for the course on both sides.”

Immigration was not a major voting issue in these midterm elections

Inflation has been the top concern for voters, according to the latest NPR/PBS NewsTime/Marist survey. Abortion rights were the top voting issue for Democrats. Since the Supreme Court struck down Roe vs. Wadereproductive rights have shaken up the electoral landscape and increased the enthusiasm of Democrats.

Immigration, however, was the No. 2 issue for Republicans, with more than one in five identifying it as their top issue. Only 1% of Democrats and 8% of independents said it was theirs.

“We need solutions and not drama,” Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, said on CBS. Confront the Nation on Sunday. “Migrants are human beings, and we have to treat them like human beings. They are used as political pawns for publicity.”

Immigration is a simmering issue, however, especially in border communities like the district that Cuellar represents in Texas. The United States crossed 2 million migrants arrested this year at the southern border on Monday, the most on record. Cuellar thinks there’s still a lot to be done, including raising awareness about immigration enforcement.

“When was the last time you saw – did you see a photo or video of people coming back?” he said. “You only see people coming in. And you have to have words, as well as actions to enforce it.”

Others think the Biden administration is getting bad press.

“This administration, I believe unfairly, is seen as lax in border enforcement,” former Obama Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said. Confront the Nation.

He noted that the United States had “removed more than 100,000 people a month” over the past two years. That amounts to more than 2 million people, he said.

Part of that, Johnson argued, is messaging.

“The lesson I learned from dealing with this issue is that you have to repeat yourself maybe 25 times before someone listens to you,” he said. “You have to show that we are in fact firing people.”

Reactions to DeSantis’ move have been mixed

Predictably, the Conservatives applauded him. They literally did, giving DeSantis a standing ovation in Kansas when he mentioned it. They see the move as underscoring the liberal hypocrisy of creating “sanctuary cities” and statehoods in places that don’t face the same influx as many border states.

Democrats and Progressives point out that local communities, state governments and nonprofits are scrambling to help migrants in Martha’s Vineyard and places like the District of Columbia, where Texas Governor Greg Abbott, has also sent busloads of migrants in recent months.

It’s a far cry from luring people onto a plane with bogus brochures and promises of “sanctuary” and jobs in Boston when none had been secured.

Hardly anyone thinks the immigration system in the United States isn’t broken. Americans do not see either political party as handling the issue perfectly.

But the Republican Party has undergone a far greater political shift in the past decade alone. The GOP has come a long way from having a president who pushed for immigration reform to one who used him as a political football.

Few, if any, Republicans remaining in Congress are seriously interested in fixing the immigration system to include a path to legalization for the millions of immigrants to the United States illegally.

The closest Congress has come in recent years was nearly a decade ago when, in 2013, 68 senators, including 14 Republicans, voted for an immigration overhaul before House conservatives killed it.

More recent efforts have failed, especially with such a narrow Democratic majority in the US Senate.

“We can secure the borders and have a system of legal entry into the United States to work, put these people on the books, make them pay taxes, make sure we’ve done a background check,” the senator said. Dick Durbin, D.-Ill., said on NBC Meet the press. “All of these things can be done. Are they controversial? You bet. Some of them are very controversial. But we know we have to do it. The United States is a nation of immigrants. I’m proud of being the son of an immigrant who came to this country. But I’ll tell you, if we’re going to do it at this time, we can’t wait another 30 years to find a solution.

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