There are some lines that no politician, let alone a conservative one, should cross. Last week, Gov. Ron DeSantis crossed them.
DeSantis paid for 50 Venezuelan migrants in Texas to be flown on two chartered planes to Martha’s Vineyard. They were dumped in the city with no directions as to where they should go on Sept. 14.
Some of these migrants were told they were being flown to Boston. There are unconfirmed reports that some of the migrants were told they were being taken somewhere where they would be granted jobs and housing.
Instead, they were forced to take shelter in a church, and have now been moved to a nearby military base while they wait to see what their future holds.
As a conservative, and an American, I am deeply concerned by the trouble we have with securing our southern border from illegal border crossings.
Congress seems unwilling to come to an agreement as to how to handle the crisis. As of Sept. 20, almost two million migrants have crossed the border in 2022, an unprecedented level that we are ill-equipped to handle.
The frustrations of those who govern our border states are legitimate, and the crisis will only deepen if Washington doesn’t exercise its authority on immigration and come up with some solution.
As the story has unfolded, the governor faces new challenges to his move. Monday, the Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar announced that he had opened a criminal investigation regarding the move.
He didn’t explicitly name DeSantis in his press conference announcing the investigation. But, it’s focused on anyone involved in the flights, which were commissioned on behalf of DeSantis and which he has publicly taken credit for. If the investigation finds the law was broken, the governor could find himself in legal trouble.
As a conservative and University of Florida student, I am strongly opposed to the governor’s decision. This political stunt, which it certainly qualifies as, is funded by Florida taxpayers through a “relocation program of unauthorized aliens” within the Florida Department of Transportation funded by the state Legislature. This program went into effect on June 2 when DeSantis signed the Freedom First budget.
This program’s intention is to remove immigrants who are in Florida illegally from the state.
However, it has no application in this particular case because of two key points.
First, the immigrants aren’t in the country illegally. They’re asylum seekers from Venezuela and were waiting for their day in court when they were moved to Martha’s Vineyard.
A second and more important point is the migrants were not in Florida at all. All 48 of them were found in Texas. Florida taxpayers are on the financial hook for this, valuing $615,000 according to state data, while receiving no benefit according to the program’s stated goals.
However, what has become obvious are the political implications of the move. Liberals across the country are up in arms denouncing the move. Those who are right-leaning have applauded this approach by DeSantis.
The move has raised DeSantis’ standing in the eyes of the Republican base, making him look tough on liberals in the eyes of the voters he will need for re-election in November — as well as in potential runs for higher office in the future. Florida taxpayers are being asked to pay for a personal political maneuver that doesn’t have a positive impact for the state.
However, all of this is second to a broader point. These are real people being discussed. They are not packages to be shipped on a whim.
The migrants are humans.
Playing political hot-potato with their lives in an attempt to win an election or future primary is not conservative, presidential or even decent on DeSantis’ part.
Conservatism in the U.S. is built on a principled, constitutional approach to solving these problems. It’s built on respect for the rule of law and a respect for decency. It has nothing to do with personal political ambitions or targeting the political opposition in an attempt to ‘own’ them.
DeSantis’ move is entirely about the last two points. Conservatives, and Floridians at large, should expect and demand more from our elected officials.
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Featured image: Ron DeSantis speaking at the 2016 CPAC convention. Unmodified photo by Gage Skidmore used under a Creative Commons license. https://bit.ly/3Lty5oo