Shipping migrants to Democratic states refocuses midterm abortion rights debate
They have delivered migrants in planes and buses in Washington, DC, New York City – even Martha’s Vineyard. And the Republican governors of Florida and Texas may be just getting started.
Govt. Florida’s Ron DeSantis and Texas’ Greg Abbott insist such dramatic measures are needed to highlight a real crisis at the US-Mexico border, where thousands of migrants are pouring into the country illegally every day. But with their own competitive re-elections just weeks away, friends and foes alike have acknowledged that such sweeping tactics have effectively refocused November’s midterm elections — at least temporarily — far from the right to abortion and toward a more Republican-friendly issue.
On Tuesday, a defiant DeSantis blasted the Biden administration’s inaction on the southern border and celebrated his own policy of making illegal immigration “a priority issue” before the mid-terms.
“It’s going to be a big deal in the election, I can tell you that,” DeSantis said. “It’s already had more impact than anyone thought it could have. But we’re going to continue to have more impact.
Indeed, DeSantis and Abbott are continuing — and even expanding — controversial campaigns to ship thousands of immigrants from Texas to Democratic-ruled states and cities. Beyond shifting the national debate, their divisive moves could also serve to bolster their national brands — and help legitimize their controversial policies — as they consider the 2024 presidential candidacies.
“I personally thought it was a good idea,” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday.
Governors’ rhetoric is reminiscent of former President Donald Trump’s dire warnings ahead of 2018 midterm elections that a caravan of migrants was threatening the southern border. Trump’s GOP lost 40 House seats and gained two Senate seats that year.
Democrats from Connecticut to California generated momentum in recent weeks campaigning on the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade — and subsequent GOP efforts to ban abortion in dozens of states. Republicans, meanwhile, want to make the midterm elections a referendum on President Joe Biden and concerns about the economy, crime and immigration.
This week, at least, immigration is at the top of the national debate.
“What they’re doing is increasing the importance and relevance of the issue of immigration, which is important to Republican voters and can help boost turnout,” veteran Republican pollster Neil Newhouse said. “For the voters we appeal to, for the most part, the benefits outweigh the risks by a considerable margin.”
There are real risks, however, especially for DeSantis, who took credit for two planes chartered on weekends which was carrying about 50 migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, a small, wealthy island off the coast of Massachusetts. Immigrants were told they were going to Boston.
A Texas sheriff on Monday launched an investigation into the DeSantis theftsthough the law enforcement official, an elected Democrat, did not specify which laws might have been broken by putting 48 Venezuelans on private planes from San Antonio, the first stop for many migrants crossing the border.
A lawsuit was filed Tuesday against DeSantis and his transport secretary on behalf of several of the migrants airlifted to Martha’s Vineyard, alleging the two politicians engaged in a “fraudulent and discriminatory scheme” to relocate them. DeSantis’ office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Representative Joaquin Castro, a Democrat who represents San Antonio, also called on the Justice Department to investigate the thefts.
“These guys are immature, sadistic Trump impersonators. That’s what they are,” Castro said of Abbott and DeSantis. “It’s sadistic behavior. Whatever political point they were trying to make was done a long time ago.
DeSantis, who has stepped up travel on behalf of GOP candidates in the midterm elections, has pledged to spend “every penny” of the $12 million set aside by the state legislature for such “programs.” resettlement”. On Tuesday, local officials from a Delaware community near Biden’s vacation home were preparing to receive another of DeSantis’ planes filled with migrants from Texas, though the Florida governor declined to confirm the development.
Despite strong criticism and potential legal liability, there has been little evidence of a widespread political reaction in either state.
Democratic supporters in Florida have held press conferences in recent days condemning the governors while others have compared DeSantis to late Cuban leader Fidel Castro on Spanish radio. But the number of Venezuelan voters in the state remains relatively low. Much of the existing community has formed a coalition with the Cubans, a crucial bloc in Florida that has increasingly voted Republican.
“Governors Abbott and DeSantis have had enough and have decided to do something to get people to pay attention,” said Ernesto Ackerman, a Republican who leads the Independent Venezuelan American Citizens. “It’s a land of laws, not of villains and vagabonds.”
In Texas, Abbott has spent the past two years pushing a series of provocative immigration measures that have raised his national profile and kept critics on his right at bay. The two-term governor converted a former prison near the southern Texas border into a migrant prison, gave the National Guard extraordinary powers of arrest and blocked some of America’s busiest ports for a week by imposing additional inspections for 18-wheelers crossing into the United States.
The Abbott administration has been transporting migrants to Washington, Chicago and New York for months. The bus campaign includes two buses full of people who have been filed outside the residence of Vice President Kamala Harris Last weekend.
Dave Carney, a longtime Abbott adviser, said Texas will expand operations this week to include new drop-off locations in other states.
“We have been focusing on this for two years. It has nothing to do with politics. Communities are crying bloody murder,” Carney said, referring to border towns flooded with immigrants apprehended at the border and then released.
Republicans have presented the border crisis as a failure of the Biden administration.
The federal government announced this week that authorities arrested migrants 2.15 million times from October to August, the first time this metric topped 2 million and a 39% increase from the same period a year earlier.
Border crossings have been fueled in part by repeat over-crossers, as there are no legal consequences for getting caught under a pandemic-era rule that denies the right to seek asylum. Even so, the numbers are extraordinarily high.
Although Abbott and DeSantis have also highlighted their achievements on issues related to the economy, neither has taken steps to moderate their immigration policies ahead of the November election.
Abbott is running against former Democratic Representative Beto O’Rourke, who edged out Abbott in a contest that represents the toughest challenge of the governor’s political career.
Immigration remains a critical issue for Democrats who have long believed that Texas’ booming cities and changing demographics would eventually turn the largest red state into blue in the United States. But in majority Hispanic border counties, Republicans are making aggressive play for three congressional seats this fall after Trump made major gains in the region in 2020.
It was much the same in South Florida, where Trump’s GOP performed better than expected in the last election.
DeSantis is running against former Rep. Charlie Crist, whose campaign has charged in recent days that the governor “shot himself in the foot” by shipping immigrants from Texas to Massachusetts. The move sparked an increase in fundraising for Crist that topped $1 million over a 48-hour period, according to spokeswoman Samantha Ramirez.
The Republican candidates in the November ballot do not seem worried.
“I think it’s a valid maneuver to use to try to wake up or at least expose the hypocrisy of progressive Democrats who say the border is secure and there’s no problem here,” Joseph Swiger said. , one of dozens of Republicans. running for local office in Texas border counties where the GOP has rarely bothered to recruit candidates in the past.
Reported Peoples of New York; Weber reported from Austin, Texas. Associated Press writer Farnoush Amiri in Washington contributed to this report.