Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Bogged down in Republican anti-immigrant demagoguery

Washington, DC – The Republican governors of Texas and Florida, Greg Abbott and Ron DeSantis, respectively, have staged their election-year political theater with immigrants and asylum-seekers as scapegoats in their campaign strategies. They do this not with the goal of offering real solutions, but plainly and simply to exploit the migration issue for electoral ends.

But for Abbott, things don’t seem to have worked out as he had hoped. For example, sending buses of immigrants to Washington, DC, with the goal of provoking tremendous chaos in the country’s capital in retaliation for President Biden’s announcement about eliminating Title 42 at the end of May, resulted in civic and religious organizations stepping up and assisting the undocumented immigrants in a rather orderly process, considering the circumstances.

Likewise, his plan to reinspect trucks at the border dissolved following pressure from diverse sectors regarding the damage that this charade was having on Texas’ economy. Essentially, vehicular chaos and potential economic losses on both sides of the border caused him to lift his order calling for more detailed inspections, which supposedly had the goal of combatting the transportation of drugs and humans, but found neither one nor the other. The irony is that when bipartisan federal legislation emerges to deal with both issues that affect the region, Republicans like Abbott always oppose the measures.

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Obviously, Abbott only made a fool of himself with this J.V. political mistake, since everyone knows the U.S./Mexico border is the most transited border in the world, and in fact those 1,931 kilometers that Texas shares with its southern neighbor make up more than half of the entire border that divides—or unites—these two nations, which is more than 3,200 kilometers long. Trade between the two countries reached a stratospheric figure of $661,164 billion in 2021, just two percentage points behind Canada, but more than China, according to data from the Census and the Economic Secretary of Mexico. Did Abbott’s economic advisers take this into account, or simply let their boss put it into evidence?

DeSantis, for his part, has not yet begun to send buses of migrants to Delaware, the state President Biden represented in the Senate for almost four decades and where he has a home, as threatened; or to Martha’s Vineyard, in Massachusetts, where Barack Obama has a summer mansion and where the upper echelon of liberal America vacations every summer.

It seems that DeSantis does not know that a large percentage of the asylum-seekers who have arrived at the southern border eventually intend to live with relatives in Florida, among them Cubans, Venezuelans, Colombians, Nicaraguans, Hondurans, and Haitians, as well as other nationalities. That is, even if he transports them to Delaware, aid groups will surely end up sending them to Florida to be received by family members who pay taxes in that state and, undoubtedly, voted for DeSantis and even Donald Trump. Recall that Florida is one of the states where conservative Latinos reside, many of whom have relatives who fled dictatorships like those in Cuba and Venezuela. But it seems that even fleeing Latin American dictators does not meet DeSantis’ requirements.

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It is unknown whether DeSantis will take into account Abbott’s failure in this same strategy, whose boomerang effect would be affecting both state leaders already. But what is certain is that he will not cease in trying to show that he understands little about national politics and even less about demography and human rights.

Abbott and DeSantis want to ensure the continuity of Trumpism in their respective states to appeal to the nativist sector, in a sort of battle to show who is more anti-immigrant, with the hope that perhaps one day they may aspire to become Trump’s successors in the White House. But as we’ve said a thousand times in this space, Republicans do not want to resolve the issue of migration, because doing so would deprive them of the ability to exploit it in electoral strategies, such as with walls, accusations of chaos at the border, or, like now, buses full of migrants.

Will Mr. Abbott and Mr. DeSantis have another “brilliant” surprise in store for the coming weeks, to continue demonizing undocumented immigrants, their favorite victims? Or will they continue to play “follow-the-leader” to try to demonstrate how anti-immigrant they are? There’s no need to try harder, the whole world already knows.

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As if this bag of Republican electoral tricks were not enough, we have some fearful Democrats who, instead of responding to those attacks, allow them to grow like snowballs and let Republicans drive the narrative, like always. Not only that. They have plans, but they don’t develop or defend them as they should.

Without a doubt a long summer-fall electoral season, where Republican obstruction and demagoguery continues to dictate the order of the day, awaits us.

Maribel Hastings es asesora ejecutiva de America’s Voice y David Torres es asesor de medios en español de America’s Voice.

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