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How Democrats can make Republican pay for their shameful migrant stunt

Immigrants leave Martha's Vineyard
AP/Ray Ewing vis Vineyard Gazette
A man, who is part of a group of immigrants that had just arrived, flashes a thumbs up Wednesday Sept. 14, 2022, in Edgartown, Mass., on Martha’s Vineyard. Florida On Sept. 14., Gov. Ron DeSantis flew two planes of immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard, escalating a tactic by Republican governors to draw attention to what they consider to be the Biden administration’s failed border policies. (Ray Ewing/Vineyard Gazette via AP)

Many Republicans fear their dreams of midterm election victories that would give them control of the U.S. House and Senate, along with more governorships, will turn into a nightmare of losses. So they’re trying to pick up votes by generating fear of hordes of “illegal aliens” entering the U.S. to commit crimes, take jobs from U.S. workers and become a burden on taxpayers.

Stirring up fear of immigrants is an old and ugly political ploy, dating back to the 19th century. Now, three Republican governors — Ron DeSantis of Florida, Greg Abbott of Texas and Doug Ducey of Arizona — have sent almost 13,000 migrants north from their home states to Washington, D.C., New York City, Chicago and the island of Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts — to “show the border is a disaster.” And there are concerns the governors will send more

Most of the migrants have traveled by bus, but DeSantis recently sent 48 mostly Venezuelans from Texas (not his own state of Florida) to Martha’s Vineyard by plane. The migrants have usually arrived in northern communities without advance notice, leaving government officials and charitable groups scrambling to provide them with emergency food and shelter.

DeSantis and Abbott are both running for reelection in November and may seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, perhaps putting them in competition with defeated former President Donald Trump, who made hostility towards immigrants a major issue in his two presidential campaigns and in the White House. 

It won’t be easy outdoing Trump in stirring up anti-immigrant sentiment, but DeSantis and Abbott are trying their best. Sending migrants from the South to the North is a desperate Republican diversionary tactic as the midterms approach.

Republicans know that millions of voters oppose GOP moves to ban or severely restrict abortions in states they control and to perhaps seek a national ban on most abortions after 15 weeks, as Sen. Lindsey Graham, (R-S.C.), has proposed.

Republicans also know that millions of voters oppose efforts by Trump and many Republicans on the ballot in November to overturn his 2020 election defeat and to undermine our democracy, and are concerned by Trump’s escalating legal troubles. In addition, they know that Biden’s favorability ratings among voters have risen since he signed the Inflation Reduction Act into law. 

I know politics can be divisive, partisan and nasty, but the actions of DeSantis, Abbott and Ducey transporting migrants across the country like cargo are beyond the pale. The federal government has jurisdiction over immigration, and these governors should be working with the Biden administration and fellow governors to deal with the arrival of asylum seekers.

Here’s what needs to be done:

  • First, lawsuits should be pursued to stop the three Republican governors from playing politics with the lives of vulnerable migrants. One suit filed in federal court by migrant-led groups accuses DeSantis and other Florida officials of “a premeditated, fraudulent, and illegal scheme … for the sole purpose of advancing their own personal, financial and political interests.”  
  • Second, states and the U.S. Justice Department should investigate the actions of Florida, Texas and Arizona to determine if any laws have been broken and seek criminal and civil penalties if the evidence warrants.
  • Third, after the November elections (I doubt Republicans will agree to anything before then), a conference of governors and federal officials on immigration should be held. Ideally, this could be convened at the White House by President Biden. Alternatively, the National Governors Association could convene the conference and invite federal officials.
  • Fourth, Republicans and Democrats in Congress should take action to appropriate funding to help temporarily house migrants awaiting asylum hearings and to allow them to get temporary work permits so they can become self-supporting.
  • Fifth, while the number of federal immigration judges has grown from 442 in 2019 to 559 today, still more should be hired to reduce the staggering backlog of 1.9 million cases dealing with asylum applications and other issues. As of January, it took an average of about two-and-half years to resolve an immigration case, with some wait times of more than three years.
  • Finally, congressional Republicans need to end their refusal to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation. This legislation should give the estimated 11.35 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. and the roughly 833,000 young people who are protected from deportation under the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program a pathway to citizenship. The legislation should also increase the number of immigrants allowed to enter the nation legally each year. In addition to helping migrants, this would help ease labor shortages in the U.S.

PBS just aired a powerful three-part series titled “The U.S. and the Holocaust,” chronicling how antisemitism and opposition to immigration barred many Jews from entering the U.S. as they sought to escape the Nazi mass murder that killed 6 million of them.

The lesson of the series is that we must not lock hardworking people facing persecution and dangerous conditions in their home countries out of our own country. Immigrants are a blessing, not a curse. They and their descendants are what made America great.

Donna Brazile is a political strategist, a contributor to ABC News and former chair of the Democratic National Committee. She is the author of “Hacks: Inside the Break-ins and Breakdowns That Put Donald Trump in the White House.”

Tags 2022 midterm elections 2024 presidential election Biden Donald Trump Doug Ducey Greg Abbott immigration policy Joe Biden Martha's Vineyard Politics of the United States Ron DeSantis undocumented immigrants
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