No doubt, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida probably thought he had cooked up the perfect political stunt last week to catch Democrats off guard and flatfooted, simultaneously lifting his own profile within the party from Trump Lite status while pushing the immigration issue in front of the voting populace just ahead of the general election, now just weeks away, this November.
He probably thought he was pretty clever. Or, as it turns out, maybe he was just a little too smart for his own good.
At a cost of about $600,000 to Florida taxpayers, DeSantis flew some 50 immigrants – men, women and children – from Texas, not Florida, to Martha’s Vineyard as the immigration battle between GOP governors and the White House continued to escalate.
That’s right, the governor of Florida, a leading Republican who has his eye on the presidency, used poor, confused, fearful foreigners, some of them children and many of whom had traveled thousands of miles from countries torn by social and economic strife, as political pawns for his own cynical yuks.
It was disgusting, an embarrassment for our country as the world was watching.
But because this is America, a remarkable thing happened on that little speck of Massachusetts land, accessible only by air or sea. And I am pretty sure the governor of Florida did not anticipate this.
The immigrants, the strangers to this new world, were warmly welcomed with large doses of humanity – by people who, apparently, know what it means to be an American, by people who know that ours is an immigrant nation and the immigrants of today are a reflection of our own past and of our country’s future.
How were they treated? They were given shelter, a place to lay a weary head, a meal, a hug. The kids got soccer balls to kick around and stuffed toys to keep them company.
Contrast that with how DeSantis reportedly lured the asylum seekers onto planes and buses with a promise of jobs, which was a lie, only to be abandoned on a roadside with nothing but plastic baggies for their belongings.
What kind of contemptible human being cares so little for his fellow man that he treats him like broken, disposable property, like worthless detritus scattered about the landscape?
And why? To make a craven political point? Really?
Goodness gracious, people.
The political irony in all of this is that DeSantis and others in leadership positions in the GOP are in the process of handing the Democrats yet another winning policy narrative – along with a woman’s right to choose – that shows just how heartless, uncaring and ineffective they are when it comes to issues that measure the size of a heart, the capacity for compassion, and an inclination on how to solve problems.
Republicans have been screaming for years – decades, really – about wanting immigration laws that control the border. And, of course, they have produced no legislation themselves, not since President George Bush proposed the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007 only to have it soundly rejected by members of his own party.
And DeSantis should know, or perhaps someone should tell him, that the border problem preceded President Biden. And if we, as a country, are to apply a fix, it is Congress that needs to write and pass such legislation. That’s how it works. Do you think DeSantis has taken the time of day to call in the congressional delegation from Florida to talk immigration policy?
Of course not. That would take work and leadership rather than the lazy appeal of grandstanding.
As such, what we get from Republicans like DeSantis is political theater, buses and planes full of immigrants, heading to cities up north, home to Democrats who respond how?
With compassion? I don’t think that is what DeSantis wanted the world to see – not just weeks ahead of an election.
J. Damon Cain is executive editor of The Register-Herald.