Treating Migrants Humanely On National Radar Following Ron DeSantis’ Racist Actions

Racist tactics by conservatives have always been ugly

We know what plays to approval on Fox News in the evening hours when profoundly ridiculous notions and racist attitudes are presented. We also know those same views will meet strong disagreement and rejection from large swaths of the nation that is not wedded to the absurd network. What makes the FOX crowds giddy does not translate well to the nation as a whole. A case in point would be the plain mean-spirited abuse of migrants at the hands of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. 

This was underscored when a new poll from Reuters-Ipsos was published Friday which showed that only a third of Americans think it’s appropriate for Republican governors to fly or bus migrants to other states. Half of the Republicans polled and only 1 in 6 Democrats said it was something in which they could agree. Twenty-nine percent of Republicans and 55 percent of Democrats say they opposed the practice. Forty-five percent–including 63 percent of Democrats and 31 percent of Republicans–said state leaders transporting migrants were committing illegal migrant trafficking.

The poll is reflective of the mood in the nation following the awful news of flying migrants thousands of miles across the country to Martha’s Vineyard.  The island off Massachusetts only has 17,000 year-round residents, and as we know from news reports this spring has housing problems for their workers who arrive during the warm months as tourists roam about.  Making a purely partisan point with the lives of migrants was unseeingly, and immoral.

It is truly troubling that some Republican pols are comfortable with the use and manipulation of people–vulnerable migrants—for the single purpose of scoring points with white voters who willingly watch FOX News. That network does not present migrants as human beings fleeing dreadful conditions in their homelands or that they seek to work hard or will find many businesses in every sector in each state wishing to hire them.  (Jobs, it needs noting, those same white FOX News viewers will not fill.)

I noted on my Twitter feed a slice from history that made a strong point about this situation.  The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library posted a tweet comparing the DeSantis racism with the “reverse Freedom Rides” that occurred in the 1960s in our nation. 

“To embarrass Northern liberals and humiliate Black people, southern White Citizens Councils started their so-called ‘Reverse Freedom Rides,’ giving Black people one-way tickets to northern cities with false promises of jobs, housing, and better lives”.

Americans know racism when they see it, and the strong rebuke of DeSantis that was registered across the nation has made one point most clear. Stop using migrants as political pawns.

Grotesque Behavior From Ron DeSantis Towards Immigrants

Over the recent past, we have witnessed more than our share of truly awful partisan moments. We saw a disabled journalist mocked, Gold Star families maligned, a POW with lifetime injuries ridiculed, and the Memorial Wall at the CIA demeaned.  While it would be wrong to think the reasons for our national disgust could not grow, we could be excused for not thinking it would be as grotesque as it turned out to be this week.

Using a pot of money, $12 million in public funds, Florida moved some immigrants to another state. The aim of Republican Governor Ron DeSantis is not to aid, comfort, or assist people who have come to our nation seeking a better life, but rather to pump up his name and harsh brand of conservatism for a national bid for the presidency.  If seeking to embarrass officials in other states by abusing men, women, and children who are at the mercy of our nation now what constitutes ‘leadership’ in the modern GOP, well, Lord, help us all.

This week the shameless display of flying about 50 immigrant Venezuelans to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts set the bar for deplorable behavior at the lowest level yet. There was no notice given to state or local officials or equally important to aid organizations who could have helped to support these people.  It was reported the immigrants were picked up in Texas where they had been staying and then flown through Florida.  The funding for this despicable treatment of people was from a ‘slush fund’ in Florida, money not appropriated for the purpose to act with recklessness or with a desire to harm others.  Yet, DeSantis was doing exactly that very thing.

Not to be outdone for wretched behavior, Texas Governor Greg Abbott has also sent busloads of people to cities around the country. But come Sunday these self-righteous men will bask themselves in evangelical fervor and pretend to have a slice of decency in their lives.  But what they really have demonstrated outside of church is the absence of Christian values.  No one uses vulnerable human beings as political pawns.  It is grotesque.   

People come to this nation for economic and safety reasons. The fact is there will be much stress and upheavals in Mexico and Central American countries in the years to come. Some of it will be created by climate change and while there are those who will pretend that is not a ‘real concern’, it is in fact, already contributing to immigration. Reports from places such as the Northern Triangle (Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador) underscore weather changes are happening as drought becomes prevalent. As such, challenges with farming mean people are leaving. Add in drugs and the misery they cause in these counties, and factor in natural disasters, and failed governmental leadership and it is no wonder people flee in an attempt for something better.  You and I would do the same.

There remains a duty for politicians to craft a reasonable immigration bill that will afford our nation’s border security.  That has long been a point this blog has made clear.  One of the reasons that such legislation is not forthcoming or sent to the president’s desk is that we do not have common-sense redistricting. During the past decade, 70% of the Republican members of the House had less than 10% Hispanic voter base in their districts which means there was nothing required of those members to act.  They felt no pressure to work for the higher national interests or do the heavy lifting required when it comes to immigration reform. 

Some Republicans are, in fact, the reason two all-encompassing bills failed to be enacted.  For the record, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006 passed in the Senate on May 25, 2006, on a 62-36 vote. The bill included provisions to strengthen border security with fencing, vehicle barriers, surveillance technology, and more personnel; a new temporary worker visa category; and a path to legal status for immigrants in the country illegally if they met specific criteria.  Then-President George W. Bush commended the Senate “for passing bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform” and said he looked forward to working with both chambers. But the bill was never taken up by the House.

Then in 2013, a bill backed by Democrats and 14 Republicans, called the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act passed the Senate on a 68-32 vote on June 27, 2013. It rotted in the GOP House. In 2018 Dreamers were being held hostage by the GOP congress. 

Republicans have shown they will not ante up to pass meaningful immigration policy but will harm and abuse others to make for partisan tensions. The horrible behavior of DeSantis along with his band of aping followers this week underscores the need for good immigration policy to trump loud boorish partisanship.

Let’s Talk About Need For Immigrant Labor

As we observe and celebrate Labor Day I felt a tilt in another direction might be needed as we head into a robust campaign season that leads up to the mid-term elections. We often hear a variety of misplaced complaints and false gripes about immigrants ‘taking jobs’ or somehow living on ‘the taxpayer’s dime’. But the facts and data do not support such rhetoric.

Google’s co-founder Sergey Brin was born in Moscow, CEO of Google Sundar Pichai in Tamil Nadu, and Satya Nadella, the head of Microsoft, in Hyderabad. The biological father of the late Steve Jobs was a Syrian who moved to America. Half of all the American startups that are worth more than $1 billion were founded by migrants. Many of the engineers at tech firms were born abroad, too. In Cupertino, a posh suburb in Silicon Valley, half the population is foreign-born.

In 2012, I posted a question on this blog that I would have asked at the first presidential debate that year. It dealt with a topic that has frustrated me for a very long time, one of those big-themed issues that our country really needs to deal with. It is one that still resonates, especially considering the Dreamers are still left in limbo today.

“Mr. President, Mr. Romney. Between 1980 and 1998 Chinese and Indian immigrants founded a quarter of all Silicon start-ups. In addition, a quarter of all technology and engineering start-ups between 1995 and 2005 were founded by immigrants. In the 2010 Fortune 500 more than 40% of the companies were started by immigrants. The U.S. is the most popular destination for foreign students, many of whom wish to stay after they graduate, but can not due to not being able to get work visas. At a time when advanced science and technology degrees are in high demand globally what will you do to allow for more skilled workers to stay here, and how would you explain to low-wage and unemployed people in America tonight the importance of allowing more international graduates with advanced skills to call America home?”

The bottom line is the current skepticism that has existed for decades has deadlocked prospects for immigration reform, even though no one is particularly happy with the status quo. Against that trend, we should be looking at immigration as a creative force in our economic favor. Allowing in more immigrants, skilled and unskilled, wouldn’t just create jobs. It could increase tax revenue, help finance Social Security, bring new home buyers, and improve the business environment. Every business sector in every state needs workers!

The data speaks as to why this is true. In fact, the participation rate for men peaked at 87.4% in October 1949 and has been dropping steadily ever since. It now stands at 67.7%. (Sept. 2021 data.) Just as the data shows that a worker shortage has been underway in the United States for a long time, so too does the data show that there have been, at times, united efforts to resolve the immigration issue and assist with worker-related shortages.

For the record, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006 passed in the Senate on May 25, 2006, with a 62-36 vote. The bill included provisions to strengthen border security with fencing, vehicle barriers, surveillance technology, and more personnel; a new temporary worker visa category; and a path to legal status for immigrants in the country illegally if they met specific criteria.  President George W. Bush commended the Senate “for passing bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform” and said he looked forward to working with both chambers.

But the bill was never taken up by the Republicans in the House.

Then, in 2013 a bill backed by Democrats and 14 Republicans, called the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act passed the Senate on a 68-32 vote on June 27, 2013. But it too rotted in the GOP-controlled House. In 2015 even The Wall Street Journal took one of the false arguments against immigration head-on.

A Guatemalan picking strawberries in Washington state doesn’t mean a native-born worker has lost a job. The increasingly integrated North American markets are not zero sum, and the most likely result of the U.S. immigration standstill is moving factories, businesses and farms overseas where labor is cheaper. Or some services will simply vanish in the U.S. as too costly to sustain.

For the Republican Party to remain viable as a national party they need to get their attitudes and policies in alignment with the country when it comes to immigration reform.  As of today many within the GOP still seem unwilling and unable to get to the place where policy changes can occur which will benefit immigrants, the country, and their party. Economics speaks to the necessity of such a move, humanity demands it.

Campaign For Wisconsin Governor Must Address Labor Shortage, Need For Immigrant Labor

With the campaign for Wisconsin governor moving in full steam towards the November election voters are being offered an array of pretty much the same fare as past fall races.  This year there is alpha-male posing from Republican nominee Tim Michels while Tony Evers unveils a cheesy tax cut. Voters know aggressive masculinity does not equate to good governance, and that our transportation budget needs state funds far more than individuals do with an extra couple hundred bucks in their wallet.

Yes, we are now in that time when candidates will say and do anything for a point bump in the polls or a series of favorable headlines.  I understand the need to press all the buttons and make every effort to prevail at the polls, but there must also be a real conversation with the electorate about issues that matter.  One of those topics is something I have talked about for at least 20 years.  Count the number of graduates leaving high school in May and then count the new faces entering kindergarten in September.  We have a genuine worker shortage, in every business sector and in every region around the Badger State.

On Sunday Tom Still, who I believe should be in the kitchen cabinet for whoever wins the governorship, stated most clearly why there is a need to focus on our state’s worker shortage.

Economists and demographers in Wisconsin have been warning for decades that a shortage of workforce-age people was inevitable. The St. Louis-based research arm of the Federal Reserve reports Wisconsin’s “labor force participation” rate declined from 74.5% in late 1997 to 66.4% in June 2022. That rate reflects the number of all employed and unemployed workers divided against the state’s civilian population.

Stills also noted a sobering fact about the dismal rate of growth from those moving here from another state.

At a time when much of the United States is on the move, Wisconsin isn’t a leading destination. About 1.1 million people moved from one U.S. state to another in 2021, the conference was told, yet only 3,400 or so wound up in Wisconsin.

Among the various factors Still connected to the worker shortage, was the fact our state will need to view immigration in a different light if we are to meet the economic needs we face. Nine years ago, in 2013, he wrote a column about immigrant workers in the Badger State.

Immigration reform can help the Wisconsin economy at a time when the demographics of an aging society are chipping away at the state’s workforce, from its kitchens, farms and resorts to its research laboratories and tech companies.

In a global economy, Wisconsin looks much less international than even its neighbors. Compared to Illinois, Minnesota and Michigan, Wisconsin has a smaller share of foreign-born population and total labor force, as well as fewer foreign-born business owners.

During the primary season, there were countless television ads by Michels where “illegals” were mentioned. We learned that he aligned with Donald Trump concerning a wall at the Southern border. He ground down with campaign rhetoric about “no drivers’ licenses, no benefits, and no tuition” for immigrants.

We too often hear conservative pols use dehumanizing language regarding immigrants.  Over the past years, we have had too many truly sad examples of political discourse that was xenophobic and racist. The facts are of course that immigrants are human beings in search of a better life, fair wages, safety, and security.  Additionally, we know that Wisconsin requires their labor and skills.

While the usual theatrics of a campaign season is upon us it appears that once again the long-term problem of a shortage of workers in our state will be left behind.  Slogans and heavy rhetoric about red meat topics will not address the shortage of workers businesses confront year after year in the construction trades, farms, or on the manufacturing floors. Voters should be provided ideas by the candidates for governor about how our state deals with this pressing problem.

Biden Leadership On Border Issue

Leadership qualities of public officials become most clear when issues demand a response that is both effective and just. The migrant children at the southern border are the headline-grabbing example of which I write. President Biden is the one making the point about such leadership. He did so emphatically during last week’s White House Press Conference.

The only people we’re not going to let sitting there on the other side of the Rio Grande by themselves with no help are children.

And then minutes later he added this statement.

Well, look, the idea that I’m going to say — which I would never do — “if an unaccompanied child ends up at the border, we’re just going to let him starve to death and stay on the other side” — no previous administration did that either, except Trump. I’m not going to do it. I’m not going to do it.

It does not take anyone more than 30 seconds to see the way those who oppose migrants, those who oppose Democrats, and even more so those who oppose an elected Democratic president will play this issue. Biden knows full well the level of opposition that will gain steam and get much louder over the border issue. But standing up to such predictable reactions also is a part of being a leader.

But here is the fact to not forget.

The border issue does not boil down neatly to political rhetoric or find a resolution in policies that were aimed at only increasing the level of misery to a point that fewer would wish to attempt entry to the nation. If that were a workable policy the past four years would be viewed as a smashing success. But we know that time produced a colossal mess.

This weekend The New Yorker has a tremendous column by Jonathan Blitzer that hits on some points that are central to grasping the ‘lay of the land’ and how leadership will be required from the White House moving forward. Three fast paragraphs of that column are below.

Biden faces another burden: by the time Trump left office, he had effectively ended the practice of asylum and left the most vulnerable people to their own devices. Some seventy thousand asylum seekers were forced to wait indefinitely in Mexico, under a policy called the Migrant Protection Protocols. Trump also, in the name of a dubious public-health order issued last March, turned away nearly everyone who sought asylum at the border, including some sixteen thousand children and thirty-four thousand families. That order had the perverse effect of leading people to try to cross multiple times; in the past year, there have been more than five hundred thousand expulsions. Biden planned to phase the asylum program back in gradually, partly for operational reasons and partly for political ones. If the Administration appeared to be floundering, it would give Republicans an opening to attack its broader agenda, which includes legislation to expand the legal immigration system and to provide a path to citizenship for eleven million undocumented immigrants already living in this country.

The number of unaccompanied children, however, has exceeded the government’s ability to move them into the care of the Department of Health and Human Services, which is responsible for placing them with family sponsors. The priority is to keep them from languishing in the holding cells run by the Department of Homeland Security; by law, children are not supposed to be in such facilities for more than seventy-two hours. But the H.H.S. shelters are almost at capacity. Nine emergency shelters have been set up, two in convention centers in Dallas and San Diego, yet the average amount of time that many children are spending in D.H.S. facilities is almost twice the legal limit. “We’re providing for the space again to be able to get these kids out,” Biden said on Thursday, adding that he had “used all the resources available” to free up five thousand more beds, at a Texas military base.

The Administration has rightly said that the problem needs to be addressed at the source. To do that, it intends to provide more aid to Central America, and to target it in ways that circumvent corrupt officials. The White House also wants to restart a program begun under Obama, and ended by Trump, to process children as refugees in their home countries, and to set up regional facilities to expedite their legal claims before the children reach the border. The plans are ambitious and still largely untested, and, as Biden admitted, they will take time—years, not months—to implement.

Part of the leadership demands now upon Biden is to make sure the communications efforts from the White House are at their peak performance as it is a requirement for the facts of the border issue to be as robust as the partisan sniping from Republicans.

And I have one more thought on this matter, which is a moral one at the border.

It is imperative that Biden and his fellow Democrats remain resolved to defend the interests of these children. It would be unacceptable to allow the unprincipled Republicans (Ted Cruz and Ron Johnson to name but two) who regard politics, rather than responsible governing, to in any way succeed.

This fight is about our ideals as a nation. Such a fight demands leadership, of the type Biden brings to his office.

And so it goes.

Biden Press Conference Refreshing For Facts, Empathy, Calm

If I were to write a short summation of President Biden’s hour-long press conference it would be as follows.

Fact-filled, lengthy, multi-issued, empathetic press conference…and no rudeness or bombast. Refreshing.

I suspect the nation will view it that way, too. Getting back to having mature, reasoned, and experienced hands on the reins of government are a good look for the world’s superpower. During the first press briefing of his presidency, Biden handled a variety of topics from his administration’s US-Mexico border response, gun control, and COVID-19.

But it was when Biden talked about the need to protect children at the border, and the thinking process which any family would undertake when sending loved ones on a long journey just to reach the border was when he proved to be the antithesis of the previous one in the White House. The regard Biden has for the least among us has long been a reason I have championed his career over the decades. His calm, reflective, and human nature was clear for all to see from the East Room.

The nation’s migration policies were upended by Donald Trump with new and purely racist ones implemented starting in 2017. Those policies did not end the numbers of migrants who came to the border over the past four years, just made the human misery deeper. Having children huddled on the other side of the Rio Grande is not a moral policy.

“He (Trump) in fact shut down the number of beds available. He did not fund HHS to get the children out of those border patrol facilities where they should not be.”

“He dismantled all that.”

We now have a moral leader in the White House.

The other issue that reached out to me was when Biden answered a reporter’s question that dealt with voting rights in the nation.

It’s sick. It’s sick” he stated as he then cited examples of some states proposing restrictions on bringing water to people standing in line waiting to vote, or to prohibit absentee ballots even under the most rigid of circumstances. Or shutting down voting at 5 PM when workers get off their jobs.

This White House press conference was akin to what this nation has long known, with the exception of the distance between reporters due to the pandemic. But the substance of the questions and responses, the decorum, the respect for the process of reporters doing their job and the President his, was so refreshing. There was no bombast or crude remarks or needless chaos.

Joe Biden was just doing what we elected him to do.

Be President.

Care About The Children At The Border

A short simple post, and to the point.

As we talk in our nation about children who flee from Central America comes a film from another part of the world that is so powerful. James and I watched it tonight. If you have a heart have tissues, too. This is a global story. One we need to care about and not shout stupid crude remarks that the kids are not ‘ours’. They are ours! That is, if you come from any place with humanity.

Children At Southern Border Deserve Our Open Arms, And Long-Term Solutions

Javier Alejandro Vindel-Rodriguez holds on to the chain-link fence of the Brownsville Express International Bridge.

Compassion is a trait that I do not consider old-fashioned. It has guided me over the decades, and it will to the end of my days. Even with all the baseless and fact-free rhetoric that is being spread widely about the ‘throngs of COVID-infected children’ at the Southern Border I rely on solid information and my inner compass. Our nation must act likewise and use our ideals as a guide in how to proceed with these young people.

Before I get to the heart of my post a fact needs to be put front and center. President Biden is still implementing a pandemic emergency rule from the past administration that empowers border agents to turn away migrants at the border, with the exception of unaccompanied minors. Those young people should not be considered expendable or able to make it on their own. They may not be our nation’s children. But they are children and we must act like caring adults.

The issue of immigration has been one that decades of policymakers and elected officials have argued about and, as of this posting, failed to address with comprehensive and meaningful legislation. The corrosive nature of our politics has even denied the Dreamers access to the security that would allow for their lives to have stability.

We should not allow for the mean-spirited nature of some politicians to gain traction on this issue for it is they who have in large part caused this humanitarian situation. How many times has a measure been pushed in congress where more immigration judges have been requested, a far superior process outlined for asylum requests, and even a registration system for unaccompanied minors? And how many times have conservatives in the congress rejected the content of those bills?

The fact is there will be much stress and upheavals in Mexico and Central American countries in the years to come. Some of it will be created by climate change and while there are those who will pretend that is not a ‘real concern’, it is in fact, already contributing to immigration. Reports from places such as the Northern Triangle (Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador) underscores weather changes are happening as drought becomes prevalent. As such, challenges with farming means people are leaving.

Add in drugs and the misery they bring with additional crime, natural disasters, and failed governmental leadership and it is no wonder people flee in an attempt for something better. You and I would do the same thing if in that situation. Therefore it is proper to state we need to place ourselves into the shoes of a young person standing at our southern border.

I utterly and completely reject those inhumane voices who would simply turn vulnerable kids back to whatever propelled them into their northern journey. I suspect many of those conservatives who would reject these young people today were championing pro-life sentiments in the last election cycle. We must, as a nation, do far better than listen to the ones who lambast the ones who have come to our land in recent weeks.

First, there must be a faster and more seamless way to process the young migrants and transfer them to shelters managed by the Department of Health and Human Services. At that point, we know there are ample sponsors who will assist with these children.

Second, there must be a concerted bipartisan effort to pass and implement an idea that was talked about in the campaign. There is now an authorization request of $4 billion in funding (as part of the Engagement in Central America initiative) to get programming developed to combat the core issues that concern people so much they wish to immigrate to our nation. Fighting violence, corruption, drugs, gangs, and extreme poverty in the places they occur will be the best use of our funds and advance the type of long-term answers that are needed.

There are also ideas percolating within the Biden administration, in conjunction with the United Nations, to create shelters in countries such as El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. By helping those seeking refuge from violence and extreme poverty in their home countries we can aid in a humanitarian way and not create immigration concerns.

We can be smart and creative in solving this problem. But we can not, MUST NOT, discard children because they come from another country and have brown skin. That runs counter to the very idea of America.

And so it goes.