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The state of Florida has set aside $12 million to move migrants to other states. Not to help the people who have come to the state looking for a better life, but to embarrass, it seems, officials in other states to take action.
The latest gambit was to fly 50 migrants, mostly from Venezuela, to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. They arrived on the Island Wednesday afternoon with no advance notice to local or state officials or to aid groups who could help the new arrivals. According to some reporting, the migrants were picked up in Texas where they had been staying, and flown through Florida.
A local church provided temporary shelter for the group, which included children, and local organizations and residents provided food and clothing.
On Thursday morning, two buses of migrants from Texas were dropped off in Washington, D.C., near the residence of Vice President Kamala Harris.
“We’re sending migrants to her backyard to call on the Biden Administration to do its job & secure the border,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted.
He previously sent migrants who had crossed the border with Mexico to Chicago. Thousands of migrants have been bussed to Washington, D.C., from Texas and Arizona since April, prompting the city’s mayor to declare a state of emergency earlier this month.
Certainly, the Biden administration, like many administrations before it, and Congress, including both Democrats and Republicans, have failed to take needed action to reform and improve the nation’s immigration laws and to strengthen border security.
The last major immigration reform package became law in 1986 (though there have been some smaller updates more recently). That means our country is trying to confront a changing situation with outdated laws. It is not working, and it hasn’t been working for some time.
Even with this inaction from policymakers, using vulnerable human beings as political pawns is despicable. Migrants who are already in America, and those yet to come here, need and deserve coordinated planning for their housing, employment and other needs, not coerced journeys to distant places to make political statements (the same is true for Americans already here, by the way).
“There is nothing tough about using vulnerable women and children for political gain,” Massachusetts state Rep. Dylan Fernandes told Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent.
A spokesperson for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said via Twitter that the flights to Martha’s Vineyard were part of Florida’s program to send migrants to “sanctuary states,” like Massachusetts, New York and California, that could better facilitate their care.
The political messaging is clear: If liberal elites want to encourage immigration, they can take care of the people who arrive here. In fact, the people in Martha’s Vineyard immediately stepped up and are helping to care for the people who literally arrived at their doorsteps unannounced and in need of help.
But, a small, seasonal community centered around summer tourism can’t magically employ and house dozens of immigrants, no matter how wealthy and kind some of the residents are.
We can hear the counter argument already: The U.S. should not allow more people into the country when many people who are already here are struggling to find housing and jobs. That’s a reasonable concern, but there are many reasons that immigration can’t simply be stopped. Refugee laws allow people fleeing violence and persecution to come to America and petition for asylum, for example. The large numbers of people seeking asylum has overwhelmed the U.S. immigration system, which needs more personnel, including immigration judges, and funding to handle the influx. Many businesses that are struggling to fill vacant jobs (and some that just want cheap workers), rely on immigrant labor.
In recent years, debates around immigration have devolved into false choices between border security or humane treatment of immigrants. The U.S. can do better on both.