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If it were possible to separate political shenanigans, secrecy, and seemingly false promises, the planeloads of migrants brought from Texas to Massachusetts and paid for by Florida could be considered a public service.
Instead, the planes are now the subject of a criminal investigation, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, the new king of gotcha politics, chuckled on Fox Monday night, bragging about sending a message to cities that offer sanctuary to migrants and promising To do so will pay off for Republicans in November.
It’s a pity that not everyone can work together because the border authorities seem to be overwhelmed and there are people at the border who have to go somewhere.
U.S. authorities have recorded more than 2 million encounters with people attempting to cross the southern border this fiscal year, and more than 203,000 in August alone, new data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection showed. Read CNN’s full report. Many encounters – 22% in the last month – are retries; the 2 million encounters represent fewer than 2 million migrants.
Many of those encountered at the border are still being turned away under a pandemic-related health agency. A federal judge won’t let the Biden administration end.
But tens of thousands of migrants seeking asylum on US soil cannot be returned to Mexico, which will not accept migrants from Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela. From these three countries alone there were 55,333 migrants in August.
CNN’s senior law enforcement and intelligence analyst, John Miller, has spoken to US and Mexican authorities and told me that Mexican drug cartels are stalking migrants and charging exorbitant sums to get them across the border after harrowing migrations from Central and South America.
Once in the US, the migrants who cannot be returned to Mexico face an uncertain future as aid organizations try to help them connect with family and contacts in the US while they await the asylum process.
When these organizations find enough migrants interested in going to New York, Chicago, or Washington, DC, they call for a bus in Texas.
This is a different process than DeSantis’ decision to intervene on behalf of Florida and ship migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard.
Miller told me that in an ideal world, the US would have some sort of Marshall Plan to stop such mass migration at its source in Central and South American countries. In the US, mayors and governors would ideally work together to distribute migrants.
“Politics in the United States right now is a little too brittle for the government to think about each other’s interests,” he said.
Nor can migrants stay only in border towns. Read these reports from El Paso, where migrants are sleeping on the streets because shelters are full, according to the Dallas Morning News and Texas Tribune.
Instead of asking Texas Gov. Greg Abbott for help, Democratic Mayor of El Paso Oscar Leeser is using emergency aid funds to enable his own buses to New York City, where many migrants are headed.
“People don’t come to El Paso, they come to America,” Leeser told ABC’s This Week Sunday. “And we look at them and we talk to them and say, ‘Where are you going and what is your goal?’ And then we take them with us and help them get to their destination.”
The big change, he said, is that unlike in the past, people, particularly from Venezuela, are arriving without money and without a place to stay.
“Today we have about 50 percent of the people who don’t have a sponsor, they don’t have any money,” Leeser said. “So we’re helping and working to get them where they want to be.”
New York City Mayor Eric Adams said Monday he communicated with Leeser but found no collaboration with Abbott.
While New York will provide sanctuary, he said the city is overwhelmed, according to CNN’s report.
“We’re not telling anyone that New York can take any migrant in the city,” the mayor said Monday. “We don’t encourage people to send eight, nine buses a day. We don’t. We say that as a protected city with a right to protection, we will fulfill this obligation. This is what we do.”
Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar, a Democrat-elected Democrat, said Monday the migrants being brought into Massachusetts from Florida from Texas appear to have been “lured” with false promises of work before heading to Martha’s Vineyard last week were sent.
It’s not clear what law the operation may have broken, but Bexar said his office is looking into the matter and criticized using people as political pawns with “false pretenses”.
DeSantis, meanwhile, said Monday night that the migrants on planes signed releases and received a map of Martha’s Vineyard before being left there.
“It was clearly voluntary and all the other nonsense you hear just isn’t true,” he said on Fox.
President Joe Biden’s home state of Delaware was bracing for possible migrant arrivals following reports of another unannounced flight from Texas. Continue reading.
CNN’s Ed Lavandera went to street corners in San Antonio where the migrants were being approached and was told those offers are still being made.
Julian Cyr, a Massachusetts state senator representing Cape Cod, said Tuesday on CNN that the migrants sent to Massachusetts have all been given lawyers and are being housed at a local military base.
He said it was impossible to argue that the migrants agreed to go to Martha’s Vineyard because they did not appear to know where they were going and no Massachusetts authorities were warned.
“It wasn’t about non-border communities getting involved in this effort,” Cyr said. “It wasn’t about helping vulnerable families have better lives. This is about using people as part of a political stunt. And that’s just inhuman and it’s shameful.”
Rep. Veronica Escobar, a Democrat representing El Paso, argued that too much emphasis was placed on restricting immigration and closing the borders.
“We’ve tried trying the Republican way for the last 30 years as a country, and we’ve shrunk the legal ways,” Escobar said on CNN on Tuesday. “If you reduce or eliminate legal routes, you will see more irregular migration,” she said.
She wants Congress to approve more processing stations for asylum seekers, including in countries outside the US, to make it easier and smoother for migrants to enter the country.
CNN’s Priscilla Alvarez notes that it’s not exactly clear how the Biden administration will proceed. She writes:
Speaking to reporters on Monday, administration officials acknowledged that the increase in migration poses a challenge. Asked if the administration was considering moving migrants inland, one official cited ongoing discussion about how to improve processing along the border.
“One solution that we know is not a good solution is for enemy governors to bus or fly migrants to places – often misleadingly – without any coordination to places they had no intention of going to go there,” the official said.
DeSantis, who appeared on Fox, claimed credit for putting immigration in the focus of voters just before the election.
“Immigration and the border, I think, is now … a front burner issue,” he told Fox’s Sean Hannity. “And I think this is one where Republicans have an unquestionable advantage. So run on it. And then when we get majorities in Congress, Sean, they have to do something with that power to hold Biden accountable on this matter.”
DeSantis is probably partially correct on this point. Republicans have consistently used immigration as a key issue on their way to elections in recent history, notably in 2010 when they won control of the House of Representatives and in 2016 when Donald Trump won the White House.
In a recent NBC News poll of registered voters, the Republican Party has a massive 36-point advantage over Democrats in “handling border security” and a smaller but still significant 17-point advantage in “handling the… Immigration”.
While asylum seekers flown by bus or plane from Texas, Arizona and Florida are legally in the country while awaiting their hearing by the justice system, it’s by no means clear that your average US voter necessarily sees them that way.
Asylum-seekers from Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua often cross the border without papers and then report to border officials before being released for an interview, a process that takes years.
The perception is enormously consequential. When they see immigration as legal, 44% of registered voters polled in a New York Times/Siena poll released this month agree with Democrats on the issue, while another 44% said they side with it the republican.
But when it comes to illegal ones Immigration, a majority of registered voters, 51%, agree with Republicans compared to 37% who agree with Democrats. Republicans have a similar lead on the economy, the other issue they are focused on.