Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) last week sent 50 migrants — who had been apprehended by CBP at the Southwest border and released — to the toney resort of Martha’s Vineyard, Mass. Their arrival inspired outrage from liberal outlets, which brought derision from conservative ones. The same thing happened after the Republican governors of Texas and Arizona started busing migrants to the “sanctuary cities” of Washington, D.C., New York City, and Chicago. This all exposes the degree to which the administration is attempting to stage-manage the humanitarian disaster at the U.S.-Mexico line — at a cost to American taxpayers.
Martha’s Vineyard Hullaballoo. The Cape Cod Times reports that 50 migrants, including “men, women and children as young as 3”, arrived “unexpectedly” on the island via flights paid for by Florida on September 14 and were sheltered in St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Edgartown.
The next day, they were assisted by community organizations and residents (including “students from an advanced placement Spanish class from the high school”), who offered food, clothing, and medical assistance.
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker (R) was apparently blindsided by their arrival, but state officials were apparently working to set up a temporary shelter at the U.S. government’s 22,000-acre Joint Base Cape Cod, which “straddles Bourne, Sandwich, Mashpee and Falmouth and is home to five military agencies”.
The paper reports:
Massachusetts has many resources to assist individuals who arrive with varying immigration statuses and needs, Baker said. The state is working with all partners involved to make sure those resources are available to the migrants that arrived on Wednesday, he said.
DeSantis’ action was condemned by filmmaker Ken Burns, who appeared with CNN’s John Berman on September 15 to promote his latest effort, a documentary called “The U.S. and the Holocaust”. Berman asked Burns:
All of your documentaries are about history ... but all of them also make you think about where we are. We woke up to the news this morning that Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida sent two planeloads of migrants to Martha’s Vineyard off the coast of Massachusetts, including kids and whatnot. And I’m not saying, this is not a 1-for-1, this is not a parallel here in any way, but it does address some of the same themes that are part of this documentary.
Burns responded: “Well, it’s the abstraction of human life. It’s basically saying that you can use a human life that is as valuable as yours or mine ... and to put it in a position of becoming a political pawn in somebody’s authoritarian game. This is coming straight out of the authoritarian playbook”.
Rather expectedly, that elicited a response from Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, who argued:
Burns played the role of Holocaust expert on CNN and you know what Ken Burns has discovered? Ken Burns has discovered that Ron DeSantis sending illegal aliens to Martha's Vineyard is pretty much exactly what Hitler did, pretty much exactly.
Do you hear that, ladies and gentlemen? It's literally — literally — just like the Holocaust. Edgartown is Dachau. Oak Bluffs is Treblinka. The horrors! This is genocide and it may be, but of course, everything is relative. Martha's Vineyard may be a modern-day death camp, but compared to where illegal aliens usually go, it doesn't look that bad.
The Administration’s Response. Axios reported on September 15 that White House officials, the attorney general (AG), and the secretaries of State, Homeland Security, and Defense will meet “to discuss a range of pressing immigration issues — including ‘litigation options’ to respond to GOP governors transporting unauthorized immigrants from the border to other parts of the country”.
While I have not been asked to advise the administration (yet), I will offer some unsolicited tips and strongly recommend that the AG not seek to prosecute DeSantis, Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R), and Arizona Governor Doug Ducey (R) for “moving or attempting to transport” aliens who have entered illegally “by means of transportation or otherwise” under section 274 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
That would just draw attention to the role that various NGOs and the federal government have played in moving released migrants from the border to points around the United States. DeSantis, an old boss of mine, is a brilliant lawyer and would use any prosecution to underscore the federal government’s role in not just the border disaster, but in offering inducements (like transport, food, and shelter) to foreign nationals to enter illegally.
For its part, Law 360 (behind a paywall) quotes various “experts” who opine that the Florida governor could be hauled to the dock for any number of crimes, including state or federal prosecutions for kidnapping, false imprisonment, and fraudulent inducement.
While I am not advising Abbott, Ducey, or DeSantis, either, any such prosecution would likely be unavailing, because I seriously question whether any of them sent an alien to any place such alien didn’t want to go. More prosaically, does the AG really want to argue that someone could be kidnapped and sent to an exclusive beach resort?
The Stage-Management. All of which brings me to what I believe is the most overlooked part of this humanitarian crisis, the stage-management of the migrant flow throughout the United States by the Biden administration.
As I have explained elsewhere, unlike every one of his predecessors, Biden is doing nothing to deter aliens from entering the United States illegally, as DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has admitted.
Instead, according to Mayorkas, the administration’s objective is “to make sure that we have safe, orderly, and legal pathways for individuals to be able to access our legal system”, meaning to ensure that any alien who can set foot in the United States can apply for asylum, regardless of the strength of that alien’s claims, or even whether he or she has any claim to asylum at all.
Transporting migrants throughout the United States is a key part of Biden’s strategy. The immigration courts and DHS could adjudicate every asylum claim at the border, but the administration has concluded that it’s more efficacious to move those aliens to the interior, where they can more easily find lawyers, and where there are (already overburdened) immigration judges to hear their claims.
As I noted in a September 6 post, a 1987 federal law that was intended to provide food and shelter to homeless veterans has been turned into a $150 million scheme to move, house, and feed those illegal migrants once they are here and awaiting their hearings.
The Problems with the Administration’s Migrant Scheme. The Axios article cites an unnamed administration official, who groused in response to DeSantis’ actions: “This should not be about political stunts. It should be about how the whole of government gets the 8,500 encounters a day down”.
“Gets down” is an ambiguous term, meaning either “reduces” or “handles”. In this context, it appears to mean the latter, because Axios also quotes a DHS spokesman, who explains: "We continue to urge states to coordinate closely with nonprofit organizations and local governments on efforts to facilitate voluntary migrant transportation. Failure to coordinate is irresponsible and creates unsafe conditions for vulnerable migrants as well as the receiving jurisdictions.”
With due respect to that (also unnamed) spokesman: (1) Congress created DHS to protect Americans from threats, not to make it easier for aliens to settle after entering illegally; and (2) the job of “facilitating voluntary migrant transportation” would be a lot simpler for all involved if the administration were trying to deter illegally entrants — which as noted, it’s not.
The problem for anyone at the Justice Department boneheaded enough to attempt to prosecute Abbott, Ducey, or DeSantis for sending illegal migrants from their states elsewhere is that the governors are sure to offer as a defense the failure of DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to satisfy his statutory obligation to achieve and maintain “operational control” of the Southwest border.
“Operational control” can also be an ambiguous term, which is why Vice President (and pseudo-border czar) Kamala Harris recently asserted: “The border is secure. ... We have a secure border in that that is a priority for any nation, including ours and our administration.”
The problem, in turn, for Harris (and for Mayorkas, who told Congress in May that DHS has “operational control of the southern border”) is that Congress left nothing to chance.
When it implemented that operational control mandate in the Secure Fence Act of 2006, Congress went a step further, defining the term as “the prevention of all unlawful entries into the United States, including entries by terrorists, other unlawful aliens, instruments of terrorism, narcotics, and other contraband”. (Emphasis added.)
When he told Congress in May that he had control of the border, Mayorkas likely meant that he was, in fact, preventing “unlawful entries” by turning illegal entrants into “asylum seekers”. The legality of that proposition aside, the governors have now upset the administration’s plan to give money to NGOs to move those aliens away from the border by transporting those aliens away from the border themselves.
The governors haven’t upset that plan by sending migrants to remote places in our continental republic they did not intend to head (few if any illegal entrants come here without a preordained destination). Rather, they spoiled that largely covert resettlement scheme by exposing it.
Which shows why DeSantis’ actions were so brilliant. He didn’t dump 50 migrants in blighted locations like west Baltimore or Gary, Ind., where he could be viewed as a heartless sadist — he sent them to a “bucket list” destination few Americans can even aspire to visit.
That’s why Burns’ complaints that those migrants are “political pawns in somebody’s authoritarian game” fall so flat and were so simple for Carlson to mock.
That there are few social services for them on the Cape is likely at least part of the point. The federal government and the NGOs can tacitly provide transportation, housing, and food when they are running the scheme, but few if any taxpayers know their cash is funding it. They know that now because it’s part of the Martha’s Vineyard story.
Thanks to DeSantis, Abbott, and Ducey, it’s now evident to Americans that they are footing the bill for the administration’s misguided policies at the U.S.-Mexico line. The White House is free to respond with any “litigation options” it wants, but Biden should expect that will just shine a brighter light on his dangerous — and illegal — border schemes.