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Mary Sanchez: Texas Gov. Abbott’s migrant bus stunt might work — by accident

Mary Sanchez, Tribune Content Agency

Maria Sanchez

Word count: 905

Posted 9/16/2022 at 8:59pm EST

For publication on 09/16/2022

In the race to see who is more politically smug and cowardly obtuse about human rights, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has just taken the lead.

Perhaps you were not aware that there was a competition. But some Republican governors are fighting over who can crack down hardest on the resolve of Democratic-run cities that have long professed to welcome immigrants.

The game started in April. Back then, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott began putting migrants on buses and sending them to Washington, DC, New York and Chicago. Doug, Governor of Arizona. Ducey soon joined. More than 10,000 migrants have been sent on their journey in this way.

Enter DeSantis. He claims credit for flying about 50 Venezuelans to Tony Martha’s Vineyard, which has an image of being a bastion of bucolic relaxation for the well-heeled and liberals.

Venezuelans could have found employment already, despite the end of the summer season, if left to their own ingenuity. They are migrants, after all, people who exemplify the entrepreneurial courage and spirit that all politicians praise but increasingly fail to put into practice.

Abbott and DeSantis aren’t trying to be generous. You’re doing a political stunt. All they really want is to piss off those cities’ Democratic mayors and rack up political points for their bases.

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These goals have been achieved, and possibly more, albeit unintentionally.

What if Abbott and his Mini-Him followers among GOP governors are so wrong they’re right? What if Abbott and the other governors cooperated and became part of the solution?

Consider the possibilities if they changed their approach and started treating migrants with fairness, respect and – gasp – kindness.

But Abbott has no intention of collaborating with the federal system that governs immigration. He doesn’t coordinate any of the busloads with the cities, which he roughly refers to as “sanctuary cities”. He likes to talk about “open borders” and other dog whistles, which makes his right base cheer.

Here is a statement released by DeSantis: “States like Massachusetts, New York and California will better facilitate the care of these individuals whom they have invited to our country by encouraging illegal immigration through their designation as ‘protected states’ and the Support for the Biden administration create open border policies.”

This is far less President Joe Biden’s fault than what GOP governors want people to believe. Natural disasters due to climate change, deep corruption in foreign governments, backlogs in our own immigration system, and the impact of the pandemic are all involved.

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What cannot be denied is that the US-Mexico border has been flooded this year with a record number of desperate people from a variety of countries turning to border officials to seek asylum. That’s legal. It’s your right to try.

The deserts, mountains, and urban area surrounding the southern border have always been just the first stop.

People want to move quickly to other cities, reunite with relatives, chase job opportunities.

What if Abbott and the other mayors coordinated with the federal government and the cities he is smugly trying to shame? He could play a hand in solving some of our immigration AND labor problems.

The migrants are generally happy about the free ride. Again, most had planned to try and travel to other states and cities in the US. They want to unite with family members. Many believe they can find work (and given the labor shortages in so many sectors, they probably can).

Many, especially those from Venezuela and other countries farther from the US border, have already gone through a literal gauntlet of dangers; traveling through the jungle, getting attacked by violent criminals and paying bribes to government officials to traverse some areas.

The gimmicky antics of some American governors are nothing in comparison.

But these migrant families need help with basic human needs: food, shelter and safe places for their children.

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They also need access to bodies that can help them take legal action toward refugee status. It’s a process involving immigration courts, essentially waiting for a case to be heard when migrants can show they have a credible fear of not wanting to return to their home countries.

Abbott saw human widgets. For him, the migrants are nothing more than props, suitable for commuting like carrier pigeons to the country’s capital to deliver a scathing message to the Biden administration.

Fortunately, cities see migrants as people. Many Americans in these cities greet the arrivals, sometimes literally by greeting them. Volunteers and agencies respond by calling on the governors’ bluff.

But it’s not sustainable.

And the incredibly dysfunctional immigration system isn’t designed to handle so many asylum applications efficiently.

The United States is still one of the best places in the world for deserving families to start fresh, tap into education, and find a way to achieve something. You can’t do that outside of the federal system. This needs to be done in close coordination with the local governments of the places where the migrants choose to live and work.

Desperate asylum seekers are not political toys. Congress needs to step up and governors need to step down and reconsider their approach.

Someone has to stop this nonsense.

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