What’s Left: Right-Wing Governors Are Making Terrible Immigration Policy Even Worse

Earlier this month, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis took responsibility for chartered planes (funded by Florida taxpayers) that transported migrants from San Antonio to Martha’s Vineyard in Mass., according to the Boston Globe.

DeSantis’ actions are part of a larger trend: per the Washington Post, Republican Governors from states including Texas and Arizona have taken to publicly and proudly relocating migrants, moving them northward from conservative southern states to more liberal ones. As the Texas Tribune reported, Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s $12-million bussing program has already removed thousands of immigrants from his state alone.

If states were simply providing all immigrants with voluntary and fully informed transportation to another state, this would be a non-issue. Instead, the Washington Post and Boston Globe report that migrants from Central and South America are being lied to, manipulated and used as physical propaganda to make a point about “sanctuary destinations” and throw national media attention on Governors Abbott and DeSantis. Both men are considered favorites for a presidential run, and former President Trump set a standard of ostentatious and bombastic actions as a cornerstone of modern Republican governments and campaigns.

To put it simply, republican governors have started pushing immigrants, who are overwhelmingly from Central and South America, out of their states to prove a point.

Ignoring the xenophobic implications of pushing asylum-seekers out of a state because they weren’t born there, there are humanitarian issues to consider. The treatment of the migrants who agreed to relocate has been called into question. According to the Boston Globe, the Martha’s Vineyard migrants were promised access to financial aid, housing and other social services — none of which were delivered. As a result, Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar opened an investigation into potential criminal behavior by Governor DeSantis.

Whether it be the Fugitive Slave Act or school integration bussing schemes, the movements of non-white people in this country have always been highly politicized. Now, in a post-“build the wall” world, immigration at the southern border is a juggernaut in conservative political campaigns and governments. There is an undeniable racist stench to the idea of removing non-white immigrants from a state because there are “too many,” one the participating governors do not seem to mind.

It is no secret that U.S. immigration policy is completely dysfunctional. Immigration from countries south of the U.S. is especially contentious given the volume of immigrants and the racialized conversations around “stealing jobs” and resources from “real Americans.” Southern states do bear a disproportionate burden of border security and migrant care by virtue of their location, and that should be better addressed by President Biden’s government, but falsely incentivizing people only to strand them in an unfamiliar place is not the solution.

Immigrants should be welcomed and invited to live in any part of the U.S. and given the resources they need to be healthy and productive members of this country. Just because someone enters the country in Texas or Arizona does not mean they are destined to spend the rest of their lives there. However, targeting migrants under false pretenses and using them as media bait is unjust in every sense of the word. America needs more migration resources in the South and better immigration policies, not more performative bigotry.