Granted, as political gamesmanship goes, the efforts by three Republican governors to bus or fly illegal immigrants to Democratic strongholds is brilliant, in a Machiavellian sort of way.
Govs. Greg Abbott in Texas, Doug Ducey in Arizona and Ron DeSantis in Florida — already popular with conservatives — have seen their stars rise on the right by shipping a small portion of the immigration problem to Democratic strongholds, such as New York City, Washington, D.C., and most recently Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.
The point they’re making to their Democratic foes on the issue of immigration is brutally simple: If you think having the undocumented flood into our communities is such a good idea, then let’s see how much you like it when they camp out in yours. The stratagem tries to capitalize on what conservatives have claimed is a regular hypocrisy in the Democratic Party, in which compassion, sacrifice and generosity are often preached but rarely practiced.
But there’s another aspect to this act of political trickery that conservatives should not be so thrilled about: that’s using the taxpayers’ money for what is a totally self-serving effort to raise one’s political profile.
That’s precisely what DeSantis did.
He saw Abbott and Ducey getting headlines for their busing of thousands of migrants to points north, and he wanted some of that publicity, too. He had $12 million at his disposal, allocated at his request by the Florida Legislature this year, to start the forced exodus of migrants. The only problem was he didn’t have brown bodies to ship, since Florida doesn’t share a border with Mexico, from where most of these migrants are coming.
So he had to steal them from Texas, tricking some 50 Venezuelans in San Antonio to get on charter planes that took them to Martha’s Vineyard — with a stopover in Florida for appearance’s sake. He used $615,000 of Florida taxpayers’ money to pay for the 2,000-mile chartered flight, which comes out to around $12,300 per person — about 40 times more expensive than a ticket on a commercial flight would have cost.
According to reports, Texas and federal law enforcement officials are looking into whether DeSantis broke any laws with his ploy for attention at the expense of migrants’ rights. Florida lawmakers, at least the Democratic ones, are rightly pointing out that DeSantis used the public’s money in a way that they hadn’t authorized. The migrant relocation funding, according to the statute, is earmarked only for moving the undocumented out of Florida, not for reaching out to snag them four states away.
DeSantis is being touted as the heir apparent to Donald Trump, if Trump surprises everyone and doesn’t try to reclaim the presidency in 2024. This incident with the Venezuelan migrants is illustrative of the type of president he would be.
Cruel and wasteful, if it suits his political purposes. Do we really want that? Again?