Screw the Migrants, Own the Libs

Caroline Cragg, Contributing Writer

On September 14, 48 Venezuelan migrants were flown from San Antonio, Texas to Martha’s Vineyard. The group included children and lacked supplies such as food and clothing. According to the Boston Globe and the New York Times, migrants were allegedly lured onto planes under false pretenses by a woman named Perla, their arrival on the island was unexpected, and the whole ordeal is widely considered to be an orchestrated political stunt by Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida in an effort to “own the libs.” Politico describes this recent GOP tactic of “owning the libs” as “a commitment to infuriating, flummoxing or otherwise distressing liberals with one’s awesomely uncompromising conservatism.” Seems like nothing new, perhaps, but DeSantis may have redefined the standards for acceptable “owning” when he shipped people like packages to a false location, particularly if he faces no legal repercussions. 

Now, the casual absurdity of this situation naturally raises many questions. Who is Perla, the mysterious blonde who allegedly acted as DeSantis’ pawn? Why is DeSantis worrying himself with migrants located in a state not his own? How do Florida taxpayers feel about their money going towards shipping migrants north from Texas? Perhaps most glaringly – how is any of this legal?

Well, as it turns out, it might not be. Several governors from other states have called for DeSantis to be charged with kidnapping and racketeering, and San Antonio’s county sheriff has opened an investigation. According to the New York Times, at least three of the migrants themselves have filed a lawsuit against DeSantis and other Florida state officials, citing the ordeal as a “fraudulent and discriminatory scheme.” Even DeSantis’ own citizens have turned against him: according to Forbes, Florida state Sen. Jason Pizzo, acting as a private citizen, sued DeSantis and his administration over using taxpayer money to “facilitate the transport of unauthorized aliens from this state consistent with federal law” through private companies.

Regardless of the legal implications, the Martha’s Vineyard migrant debacle has also raised questions of the ethical treatment of migrants and the logistics of sanctuary cities, which the American Immigration Council describes as locations with policies based on the idea that the federal government cannot compel jurisdictions to take part in immigration enforcement. These locations tend to be overwhelmingly located in places far from the border itself. Exploiting vulnerable people to further your own political agenda – particularly under fraudulent circumstances – is undoubtedly cruel and unethical. However, the notion of sending migrants to cities that present themselves as sanctuaries for migrants, especially from places dealing with a constant sudden influx due to their border proximity, is an interesting if predictable development in the United States’ continued struggles with immigration. 

It should be noted that while DeSantis described his state’s plan as bringing migrants to “sanctuary destinations,” Massachusetts is not a codified sanctuary state, and Martha’s Vineyard is not a sanctuary city; however, in 2017, Massachusetts’ top state court ruled that court officers do not have the authority to arrest someone suspected of being in the U.S. illegally if that person is not facing criminal charges. According to NBC Boston, while this effectively gave Massachusetts sanctuary status, advocates have been pushing for a bill that would codify this into law. 

Furthermore, DeSantis is not unique in his immigration endeavor; Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas has been transporting thousands of migrants to sanctuary destinations for months. The ethics and legality of these transports have not garnered anywhere close to the publicity that DeSantis’ transports have (much to the chagrin of Abbott), but this tactic is not new and, I would assume, will increase in frequency, particularly for potential 2024 GOP presidential candidates. The New York Times aptly describes DeSantis’ intentions with the migrant transport: “Liberal condemnation. Conservative applause. And national attention.” And that’s exactly what he received. Among the seemingly never-ending effects of Donald Trump’s presidency is the new blueprint for GOP politicians, one that consists of constantly upping the bar for morally reprehensible acts in order to instigate maximum liberal outrage, ignite unbridled conservative nationalism, and attract as much media attention as possible. 2024 contenders will cling to this strategy, because not only has it served politicians like DeSantis and Abbott well so far, but because it’s a tried and true method for cinching a presidential nomination in today’s political climate. 

That being said – I say let the transports continue, albeit with better communication and planning. Of course, migrants should not be gaslit, coerced, or exploited for personal political gain in the process. But the citizens of Martha’s Vineyard proved that, even unprepared and undesignated as a sanctuary destination, people in more liberal places are willing to support migrants to the best of their ability. To be fair, this is one example, and that is a broad generalization – but the rationale of sending migrants to places that advertise as liberal and “pro-immigrant,” whether or not that be more performative than anything else, is hard to argue against, ulterior motives notwithstanding. 

In an ideal United States, there would be no need for sanctuary cities or migrant transports, because migrants would be able to settle wherever they please. Obviously that is not our reality, and, as such, politicians like DeSantis and Abbott will continue to exploit migrants as a way to own the libs. God bless America.