Sometimes reality is stranger than fiction. Ron DeSantis, the governor of the state of Florida in the United States, used money allocated in Florida’s annual state budget to

Ron DeSantis’ Cross-State Migration is More Than Just a ‘Political Stunt’

Sometimes political “stunts” collide with realities like the rule of law and basic respect for human rights. Ron DeSantis’ latest attempt at political theater has shown how dangerous the cruel cynicism underlying conservative politics is.

Sep 26, 2022

Sometimes reality is stranger than fiction. Ron DeSantis, the governor of the state of Florida in the United States, used money allocated in Florida’s annual state budget to involuntarily relocate migrants from Texas — where he clearly lacks jurisdiction — to the supposed elitist liberal enclave of Martha’s Vineyard in the state of Massachusetts.
As a conservative Republican, DeSantis stands for “the free state of Florida leading the way in fiscal responsibility”. But spending 12 million USD of Florida’s state fund, authorized to “facilitate the transport of unauthorized aliens from this state (i.e., Florida)”, which is not the state of Texas according to the laws of geography and is the farthest from a responsible use of money. DeSantis’ bizarre and comical defense was that the migrants would have ended up in Florida eventually anyway. Without a doubt, before we even talk about the ethical and moral depravity of the situation, Ron DeSantis overstepped his own legal authority as Governor of Florida.
All 50 of the migrants flown on the chartered flights were Venezuelan. Venezuela is a country that has been embroiled in economic and humanitarian turmoil and many have sought to escape to the United States. Three of the migrants are suing state officials, arguing that the conditions they faced during the transport were cruelty akin to what they fled in Venezuela. Migrants were offered McDonald’s gift cards, employment assistance and other goods for boarding the flight — a transparent and bizarre bribery, with the assistance for finding a job not ever materializing in Massachusetts.
Florida has by far the largest Venezuelan population among all 50 states and has in the past made itself a sanctuary for Cubans fleeing Fidel Castro’s repression. A key Republican message during the 2020 presidential campaign tied President Joe Biden and his policies to the socialist repression that pushed migrants out of Cuba and Venezuela to the United States. In few places was this campaign more successful than in South Florida, with Miami-Dade County decreasing down to a 29.6 percent victory margin for Joe Biden compared to Hillary Clinton’s 7.3 percent victory margin in 2016. This increased toxic association between the Democrats and socialism has shifted the popular perception by political analysts and forecasters of Florida from a “swing state” to a lean Republican state.
Venezuelan community leaders in Florida have pushed for an extension of a special “Temporary Protected Status” for those fleeing the country to the United States. Senator Marco Rubio, for example, joined a letter to the Department of Homeland Security advocating for this extension but has remained in a deafening silence on this political stunt thus far.
But describing what DeSantis did merely as a “political stunt” is a little bit too soft. After all, many of these passengers were not newly arrived illegal immigrants, and even if they were, what DeSantis did should still be seen as a human rights violation. More specifically, in most cases they were asylum-seekers in the U.S. legally while waiting for their background checks and hearings to gain a permanent status. The migrants were given a contact known as “Perla”, who sold them on the assistance they would allegedly receive upon being flown to a “sanctuary” in the northeast. But after the migrants arrived in Martha’s Vineyard, calls to her went unanswered.
Reading the narrative that I am telling, it is clear that this tragedy was itself a horrific dehumanization by a politician who sees himself as above the law. But how communities in Florida react to DeSantis’s actions is entirely a matter of framing. If people hear the side of the story that left-leaning cities are enabling illegal immigration and should be the ones to deal with its consequences, they tend to forget the human element of what is effectively human trafficking — narratives matter. It appears that certain Republicans were trying to foster one regarding the hypocrisy of the “liberal elite” that claims moral superiority over anti-immigration conservatives while being hostile to migrants themselves. Martha’s Vineyard was certainly a headline-grabbing location, but it would also somehow prove that wealthy liberals would cower in fear or react with hostility when the border crisis showed up “in their backyard”.
The failure of this narrative has largely been ignored by those who were spreading it, with popular right-wing commentators proceeding with their original talking points against any contrary evidence. “They love immigration until migrants show up in Martha’s Vineyard”, said Ben Shapiro on Sept. 15. Ron DeSantis is seen as the “heir to Trumpism” and is desperately trying to imitate Trump’s theatrical, post-truth style, where feelings have more weight than evidence. Real human lives are at stake in this process. And crimes likely were committed — deceiving people and moving them from one place to another could constitute kidnapping and falsely promising work permits is illegal. As bizarre as this story seems — anti-leftist governor uses alleged victims of leftism as pawns in a political game using 13,000 USD per migrant in state money — it is a genuine crime and should be federally prosecuted as such.
gazelle logo