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Immigrants are not pawns: Ron DeSantis' immorality

Oak Bluffs is one of the towns in Martha’s Vineyard. The island was unexpectly sent a plane of immigrants by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. The immigrants were intially told they were going to Boston. (credit: Courtesy of  Massachusetts Office Of Travel & Tourism via Flickr) Oak Bluffs is one of the towns in Martha’s Vineyard. The island was unexpectly sent a plane of immigrants by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. The immigrants were intially told they were going to Boston. (credit: Courtesy of Massachusetts Office Of Travel & Tourism via Flickr)
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On Wednesday, Sept. 14 Florida Governor Ron DeSantis flew approximately 50 predominately Venezuelan immigrants from Texas to Massachusetts under false pretenses — he engaged in human trafficking. The people in power need to stop playing chess with the lives of those too disadvantaged to prevent themselves from being used as pawns.

What stood out to me the most while doing research about DeSantis’ actions wasn’t the amount of money spent on organizing only two plane trips, or the lack of empathy in his public statements. It was a quote by one of the immigrants, which when asked about why he boarded the plane, said, “Look, when you have no money and someone offers help, well, it means a lot.”

These weren’t just people who were tricked into getting on a plane being told they were going one place and ending up in another. Instead, these are people who have spent weeks struggling to make it to a place where they can start over, and who are hoping that maybe, just maybe, this time someone is willing to help make their journey easier. DeSantis took advantage of that hope, making these people believe that they would finally get somewhere where they could have a better life, only to arrive there and have no one know they were coming.

What really struck me as cruel about DeSantis’ policies wasn’t the actual act of moving migrants from a red state to a blue state. It was the way they dehumanized the people while doing it, making it a clear political stunt focused more on the impact to polls than it was on those peoples actual lives.

This wasn’t about getting immigrants to a place where they can be better supported, or even about alleviating Florida’s immigration burden. If it was, DeSantis would have sent migrants from Florida, not Texas, and would have sent them to a major city, not a small island resort community with little means to support them. If it was, the governments of these blue states would have been told about the incoming migrants, and immigration support groups would have had time to prepare. If it was, DeSantis wouldn’t have had to lie. Clearly, when these people have as little as they do, they appreciate any measure of support they can get. If he approached this through a lens of humanity and compassion instead of politics, DeSantis and other governors might have realized that and achieved the same outcomes without the backlash and trauma to people who didn’t deserve it.

Blatantly taking advantage of people without support systems shouldn’t be a partisan issue, it’s instead an issue with how our political system runs. The U.S. has made it a smart political move to cause chaos and drama to draw attention to hot button issues before major elections. Our news cycle promotes it, people talk about it, candidates endorse it. But eventually, our focus on shock-inducing political moves needs to have a limit. That limit needs to be respecting each other’s well-being and humanity.
In no world should it be okay to move people across state lines with lies about where they are going and false promises about what they will find when they get there.

Imagine instead of a group of immigrants, it was a group of families on vacation. Fifty people are told they can have the trip of a lifetime, and to them it seems like it’ll happen — they’re housed in a hotel for the days before their private chartered flight, they’re given fancy information packets with all the amenities they can expect from their stay, they’re promised the best housing and food once they get there. But when their plane lands, not only are they on a completely different, unrecognizable island from where they thought they were going, but the local people had no idea they were coming, and, of course, they speak a different language, so communication is hazy at best. Remove the political lens, and the backlash would be universal. There is no reason the company in charge of that trip wouldn’t get in trouble for fraud and misrepresentation. As this literally did happen with the infamous Fyre Festivalwhere the perpetrator was faced with solitary confinement in light of his deception. So why is it different when the group being impacted are immigrants, and the actor is the government?

If anything, it only compounds the issue. If this was merely an issue of a fraudulent vacation, the families could pull out their phones and use Google Translate for communication, or easily book a flight back home and forget this ever happened. For the people who actually just went through this in Martha’s Vineyard, they don’t have a home to go back to, nor the means to use technology and find themselves a simple solution. To drop someone in a new location with no support or warning is just appalling. So regardless of political leaning or views on immigration policy, there is a problem with the way DeSantis is treating people and his total lack of remorse.

Usually when people talk about politics as playing chess, the pieces are metaphorical, and the movements occur in the world of ideas and public thought, not reality. DeSantis took this metaphor literally, moving people across the chessboard that is the United States with little regard for how it impacted any of the other pieces on the field. To him, he could sacrifice a pawn if it got him the King, ignoring the fact that these pawns were human beings with lives and families and aspirations, not plastic toys for his political agenda.