Migrants, long at the center of political rhetoric, have now become props for planes and buses Get Whole Detail

Migrants, long at the center of political rhetoric, have now become props for planes and buses
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For five months, Gov. Greg Abbott has been ferrying immigrants to Democratic-led cities to draw attention to the number of people arriving at the Texas border.

It started with Washington, DC, then expanded bus service to New York and Chicago. At least 11,000 migrants were removed from the state, apparently voluntarily.

But an attempt by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis last week to use the same tactic took the issue to another level, when the state flew a plane to Texas and allegedly lured migrants on the flights by offering jobs, housing and services as well. , Boston promised a gratuity. trip to Texas and then abandoned these migrants at Martha’s Vineyard, an island resort about 100 miles away. Three of those immigrants have now sued DeSantis in federal court.

In a way, Abbott and DeSantis are following a familiar playbook: Find ways to bring immigration to the fore during election season to capitalize on populist backlash. But some say the shipments have taken the country’s political discourse to a new low, using migrants as props in political theater rather than just the subject of rhetorical attacks.

“To me, this is just blatant manipulation of people. It speaks to our values,” said Jim Harrington, the retired founder of the Texas Civil Rights Project, who has worked on immigration issues since 1973. “The idea that you can play with people like he did.”

Abbott’s office said Texas plays no role in migrants entering Massachusetts. But there was similar backlash for his recent attempt to bus migrants to Vice President Kamala Harris’ home in Washington — a stunt Harris likely never saw coming, given that the vice president’s residence is located on a military science site of 80 acres, the Naval Observatory.

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“She’s the czarina of the border, and we felt that if she doesn’t come down to see the border, if President Biden doesn’t come down and see the border, we’re going to make sure they see it first hand,” Abbott said. . “There’s more where that came from.”

In November, Abbott is seeking a third term and DeSantis is seeking a second. Politicians often used immigrants in election campaigns. In 1994, California Governor Pete Wilson ran ads showing migrants crossing the border during his re-election campaign. More recently, Donald Trump’s successful 2016 presidential bid began by denouncing Mexican immigrants as “criminals”, “drug dealers” and “rapists”. Abbott himself escalated his attacks on “Sanctuary Cities” in 2017, a year before his first re-election campaign.

But while these efforts have depicted and debated immigrants, the use of actual migrants has troubled scholars and observers, who see it as just the latest in a series of collapsing norms undermining American democracy.

Donald F. Kettl, professor emeritus and former dean of the University of Maryland School of Public Policy, said the recent hauls represent a “dramatic escalation of the use of immigrants as a political tool and a political symbol.

“One of the things that has definitely happened is that immigrants as people — the idea that they have needs or problems that they’re trying to escape and their aspirations to make a new home in the United States — have been affected by the idea of ​​creating a mega symbol and use them as moving game pieces,” said Kettl. “It’s a really horrible way to treat people and it’s definitely an attempt to push people’s needs aside to try and score political points.”

Jennifer Mercieca, a Texas A&M professor who studies political rhetoric, said bringing migrants into the jurisdiction of a political opponent follows a rhetorical tactic called “reification,” in which people are treated as physical objects whose feelings don’t matter.

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“The plan does not care about migrants and their welfare and well-being,” she said. “It’s, ‘How can I use these migrants to score a political point against my opponent?””

Abbott and DeSantis said they want to force Democratic officials, starting with President Joe Biden, to act. But Mercieca said that running programs without proposing solutions contradicts her.

“It’s not about political solutions, it’s about creating a political spectacle. It’s about creating dramatic events or ‘pseudo-events’ that need to be covered,” she said. “You have to stick it to the other side. You have to show that you are strong. You have to get the win.”

These “pseudo-events” aim to control the narrative as both governors seek re-election and an opportunity to raise their profile, possibly in anticipation of a presidential nomination in 2024, Kettl said.

Polls show why this could be good for Abbott. Over the summer, much of the political discourse in Texas focused on the Uvalde school shooting and the overturning of Roe v. Calf. A recent University of Texas/Texas Policy Project poll found more Texans trust Abbott’s 2022 challenger Beto O’Rourke on abortion issues — and are evenly split on gun violence . By contrast, Abbott has a 12 percentage point lead on border security and immigration.

But Mercieca has also seen a change in how far politicians are willing to go to make their point, and how much the public is willing to tolerate.

“A stunt like Abbott’s or DeSantis’ would have made no sense 10 years ago, 15 years ago, 20 years ago,” she said. “That wouldn’t have resonated with a wider audience. But today’s audience likes that.”

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This is partly because cable news has become bipartisan, pressuring politicians to take dramatic and even extreme measures to gain attention.

“It’s a vicious cycle,” she said. “They radicalized the public, which in turn radicalized them.”

The migration movement has also drawn comparisons to painful parts of US history. As news of the Florida flights spread across Massachusetts, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library tweeted comparing the effort to the “Reverse Freedom Rides” of the 1960s.

“To make northern liberals and humiliate blacks, southern white citizens’ councils launched what they called ‘Reverse Freedom Rides’, giving blacks tickets to northern cities with false promises of jobs, housing and a better life,” according to the publication. library account he posted on Twitter.

But those jobs and opportunities didn’t exist, leaving Black Travelers locked out of their homes.

This week, PBS aired documentary filmmaker Ken Burns’ latest project, The United States and the Holocaust, which chronicled America’s refusal to change restrictive immigration quotas to help refugees even as millions fled Europe before and during the Holocaust.

Harrington said using immigrants to score political points demonstrates a new “insensitivity” in how Texans view immigrants. Just 21 years ago, a Republican-led Texas legislature passed legislation allowing undocumented youth who grew up in the state to pay in-state tuition at public universities. After this month’s escalation of migrant movements, no elected Republicans spoke out, nor did major business or civic leaders.

“A lot of people sit and talk about it and lament, but where is the leadership that helped shape and mold our human response as a democracy? Where is he?” he said. “We are so devastated.”

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