Oakland (Special to Informed Comment) – Republican Governors Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Abbot of Texas have pulled some repugnant, grandstanding stunts in their efforts to assume the mantle of Donald Trump’s base, and further their vainglorious presidential ambitions. What seems to them as a clever “gotcha’” stunt to embarrass President Joe Biden and federal immigration officials, is really a massive kidnapping and human trafficking scheme, which has drawn the Justice Department’s attention for possible criminal sanctions.
Exhausted and abused asylum-seekers and undocumented immigrants are being greeted at the Texas border by police in riot gear, and herded into buses like cattle. That is not an overly-dramatized hyperbole, but a massive cruelty intended to score political points.
Abbott sent busloads of asylum seekers or undocumented immigrants to the home of VP Kamala Harris and the Naval Observatory in DC, and three others to New York City. He and DeSantis are pawning desperate people, who may have family waiting for them somewhere in the U.S.; but are being conned into being taken to places they don’t want to be, and set up for deportation. This is a partisan Republican stab to overwhelm cities and regions they are hostile to, and paralyze those cities and the federal government.
Despite the right wing hype around undocumented immigration, likely intended as a ploy to offset the unpopularity of Republican forced-birth policies, it ignores key distinctions. Those trafficked by DeSantis to Cape Cod were such asylum-seekers, from Venezuela and Colombia. These persons have contacted US authorities and have initiated an appeal for asylum, which will then wend its way through the judicial system. They were in severe danger in their homelands, often dictatorships supported behind the scenes by the US government. Asylum-seekers are not undocumented immigrants– they are fully documented, it is just that their fate is as yet unknown. It is these traumatized and abused people from anti-US dictatorships such as Venezuela that these Republican governors trafficked for the sake of a sound bite.
Some undocumented immigrants are seasonal migrants who come over the border to work in agriculture and return. American orchard- and farm-owners heavily depend on them. Some crops, such as strawberries, have to be picked by hand, and owners depend on migrant labor to bring them in. Some 43% of US agricultural workers were not born in the US, and some proportion of them are undocumented seasonal migrants. Here we see the dysfunction and hypocrisy of the US business classes and the government serving them. The H2A visa program for such migrant labor is widely viewed as a failure and is sidestepped by many farm owners who prefer the leverage they have over undocumented workers. By all rights, moreover, the US should have a path to citizenship for those migrants who decide to stay after working in this country for many years and making their lives here. Many Americans are surprised to discover that no such path exists.
in recent years, moreover, 74% of attempted unlawful entries are estimated to have been intercepted by Border Patrol. Even so, in the fiscal year 2021, deportation officers from ICE arrested 74,082 immigrants and deported 59,011 immediately. They deported by airplane another 36,654. At the direction of the Biden administration, DHS has focused like a laser in targeting for expulsion those who successfully evaded Border Patrol who have criminal records. More tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants are under investigation and wearing court-ordered electronic bracelets.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas criticized Abbott for not consulting with federal officials on the issue, which has resulted in a National Guard crisis in Washington, DC. The fact that Abbott and DeSantis made no effort to notify the DHS, federal immigration officials or the jurisdictions about the mass influx to be expected, illustrates the malice being expressed toward those entities and the undocumented immigrants and asylum-seekers.
Some asylum-seekers have been duped into accepting plane or bus rides to places far away from where they want to be, with false promises of employment and legal assistance. The City of San Antonio recognizes this as a human trafficking crisis, and advised new arrivals not to accept rides or help from strangers hanging around their Migrant Resource Center. These poor, confused, exhausted people are being lied to, and taken to arbitrary locations against their will.
Some perpetrators identified in this scheme are the subject of criminal inquiries and “WANTED” posters. This includes a woman named Perla, who was recruiting asylum seekers and undocumented immigrants in San Antonio, and lured them into buses with false promises. Women are used as a front, to give the newcomers false confidence in a person who appears to be nurturing, and to mask a diabolical intent to kidnap them. They are being taken far away from the jurisdictions where their immigration hearings would be heard, thus subjecting them to more confusion and logistical traps. As a result, they are being set up to miss mandatory appointments 1000’s of miles away, and subjected to deportation.
Though the DHS has been made to look complicit by DeSantis and Abbott, and accused of issuing asylum seekers and the undocumented bogus forms, assigning them to homeless shelters all over the U.S., DHS spokesman Luis Miranda said, “Unlike these governors, they (DHS) are not in the business of using vulnerable men, women, and children as props for a political stunt.” So these governors have also compromised the integrity of DHS by using that federal agency as a stooge in their scheme.
Some migrants and asylum-seekers who have American family connections are being bussed or flown far away from their family and awaiting support system. This harkens back to the brutal separation of families as part of Donald Trump’s to discourage immigration, by destroying lives and demoralizing survivors. Some are getting off buses before they reach New York or DC, knowing those places are very expensive and daunting for new immigrants. They were getting off the bus in red states like Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee, until the local Republican governors made public objections.
These acts amount to not only state interference in federal immigration processes, but is also a mass civil rights violation. Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, executive director for Boston’s Lawyers for Civil Rights said, “This caper to expose the hypocrisy of Democratic elites ended up being compared to human trafficking. The Republicans are exploiting people’s misery for a political game.”
Last year the Texas legislature directed more than $3 billion to border measures over the next two years, a bulk of which has gone to Abbott’s Operation Lone Star. Though designed to combat human trafficking and drug smuggling, it has resulted in thousands of immigrant men being arrested for trespassing onto private property, though they’ve made every effort to enter the country legally. Some “have been kept in jail for weeks without charges being filed.” As a result, it has drawn the attention of the U.S. Justice Department for possible civil rights violations.
White House spokesman Abdullah Hasan said, ““Luring asylum seekers under false pretenses and then abandoning them on the side of the road thousands of miles away is not the solution to a global challenge — in fact, those are the kinds of tactics that smugglers are arrested for.” According to UC Berkeley associate history professor Hidetaka Hirota, the goal is to “embarrass pro-immigration politicians and create the appearance of chaos to justify cruel policies.” It is a pandering gimmick, photo-op and political statement to score political points with Trump’s cruel constituency and burnish “presidential” credentials. All at the expense of tragically vulnerable people, who’ve traveled 1000’s of miles with hope as their only capital and currency.