In racist political stunts, Republican governors Ron DeSantis of Florida, Greg Abbott of Texas, and Doug Ducey of Arizona have bussed over 10,000 migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers north to states run by the Democratic Party. Sending people under false pretenses to Martha’s Vineyard, New York City, Chicago and Washington, D.C., Republican governors are claiming that they will continue this activity until the Biden administration “secures” the border.
Trump’s ultra hardline rhetoric and policies paved the way for this assault, but now state governors are jockeying for influence. If Trump does not run for president in 2024, or is disqualified from doing so, DeSantis and Abbott are widely considered to be potential contenders. Potential Republican candidates are competing with each other to be the most racist in a field of unapologetic racists.
The Republicans offer nothing but hate, demonization and divide-and-conquer tactics that turn entire populations into pawns for an anti-worker, anti-immigrant agenda. But the Democrats are also to blame for the policies that have caused refugee crises across the Americas. Both parties are complicit in the so-called “border crisis.”
Republicans’ anti-immigrant farce has bipartisan roots
The militarization of the border began in earnest under the Democratic Clinton administration. The Clinton administration signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which put large parts of the Mexican economy under the control of U.S. corporations while causing deep hardships for workers in the United States as well. NAFTA caused mass unemployment and a wave of economic refugees fleeing north.
Since then, Democrats and Republicans have competed with each other to look “tough on immigration” and militarize the border. Clinton almost tripled border patrol funding from $400 million to $1.1 billion, Bush, a Republican, doubled the funding again to $2.6 billion, and Obama, a Democrat, brought funding to $4.2 billion.
The Biden administration has not backpedaled on Trump’s heinous border policies: Biden actually increased the number of immigrants in detention centers by 50% by the end of 2021. When Republicans criticize the Biden administration for not “securing” the border, it hides the fact that there is in fact bipartisan support for harsh border militarization — which Biden has spent his entire career supporting.
The roots of the current busing scheme date to April 6, when Abbott announced his intention to start busing migrants to Washington, D.C. under Operation Lone Star.
Begun in March 2021, Operation Lone Star, another political stunt by Texas politicians to bolster their racist, right-wing agenda, has recently been exposed as a disastrous failure. It deployed thousands of National Guard troops to the Texas-Mexican border and lured thousands of immigrants into “trespassing” in policies described as entrapment. Most were detained for months without trial and detainees were being held in prisons without air conditioning in south Texas heat. Civilians across Texas were uprooted from their jobs and families without warning to be deployed as National Guard, and some troops even committed suicide during the politically-driven operation.
Racist stunts meant to distract from real problems
Texas and Florida were already facing multiple catastrophes: COVID-19 deaths, infrastructure collapse, housing crises, water shortages and climate change disasters. The governors’ migrant busing stunts are meant to distract attention from this backdrop of immense human suffering.
On Sept. 14, DeSantis sent two planes of 50 migrants to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. DeSantis chose the destination as “one of the wealthiest communities in America,” seeking to cast himself as a populist who is in line with working people. In fact, Harvard and Yale-educated DeSantis’ true constituents are the ultra-rich. He has received $165 million in fundraising contributions since 2019, more than any other gubernatorial candidate in the country. Just this year, DeSantis received a $5 million donation from Ken Griffin, founder of the $50 billion investment firm Citadel, and a $10 million donation from hotel chain owner Robert Bigelow.
The political scheming of right-wing governors has further uprooted people’s lives. Migrants who were sent to Martha’s Vineyard claim to have been approached by a tall, blonde woman using the name Perla, who promised that they would be provided a free trip to Boston, complete with a job and shelter. Instead, they were flown to Martha’s Vineyard, an island nowhere near Boston, and there were no jobs or shelter. The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) is now offering a $5,000 reward for information about Perla’s real identity.
Many of the current migrants are from Venezuela. Venezuelans are facing economic devastation imposed by the United States, which prevents food and medicine from entering the country. The Trump administration even began sanctions on the CLAP program, a food distribution program that provides Venezuelans with basic necessities for survival. The U.S. actually detained, tortured, and falsely charged a Venezuelan diplomat who was traveling through Cape Verde in order to prevent Venezuela from being able to import food. U.S. sanctions had already killed at least 40,000 Venezuelans by 2019.
U.S.-imposed suffering is not unique to Venezuela. Across Latin America and the Caribbean people are fleeing the effects of sanctions, coups and violence perpetrated by the U.S. government. Others are fleeing the effects of climate change and economic exploitation by U.S. companies.
Across the country, the right wing is using its disproportionate power over state governments and court systems to assault core democratic rights. This campaign to forcibly move migrants across the country to score political points violates every imaginable due process right that asylum seekers are entitled to.
Republicans have used some of the most vulnerable people in the country as pawns in their political schemes. The Democrats, unable to respond without revealing their own hypocrisy toward immigrants, have no meaningful solutions. We need a new approach that benefits workers in all countries — demilitarize the border, ends U.S. interference abroad, and invest in housing, healthcare, and jobs for all people instead of repression.