Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Dumb Stunts And Crazy Laws

      People appear to be incapable of applying logical thought to political choices.  It's all emotion and blind partisan loyalties, and every new piece of theatre just adds to the noise.  When it's not well-staged rallies and speeches, it's photo-ops and dumb stunts.

      This particular dumb stunt has been all over the news: the Governor of Florida took some people from Texas who had apparently sneaked into the U.S., and flew them (via Florida) to Martha's Vineyard, a fairly high-end vacation destination which is still quite busy in September.  That's busy as in "you can't get a room unless you reserved it months ago," which Florida's Governor had not.  He had somehow arranged to have a video crew to cover the arrival, which is a sure sign of a publicity stunt.

      So if you were wondering why the people, all or mostly Venezuelans, ended up sleeping in church basements until the (Republican!) Governor of Massachusetts could scramble National Guard to make room on a mainland military base for them, that's why: no room at the inn!  Which starts to make the stunt look dumb.  But wait, there's more!

      (Also, if the goal is to get every state to do their fair share, why would the GOP Governor of Florida [a bit over 3.5% of their population undocumented] not ring up his GOP counterpart in Massachusetts [just over 3% undocumented] and ask him to make room for some people from Texas [about 6% undocumented]?  It's a mystery to me -- unless it was a stunt.  But wait, there's more!)

      There is considerable evidence that the people who agreed to be flown to Martha's Vineyard had been lied to about what was waiting for them there: jobs, accommodation, aid of all sorts.  None of those things was actually available.  Some of them are available to certain kinds of refugees, which the people who were left on the island were, in fact, not.  Hoodwink people and get caught at it?  Dumb stunt.  But wait, there's more!

      You may be thinking, "So what.  These people were illegal immigrants, undocumented border sneaks who didn't play by the rules."  And there's the rub: they were playing by the rules, or at least they were by the time they were recruited in Texas.  They had officially applied for asylum.  (Venezuela being in the grip of a nasty communist-type government and it having horrendously cratered the economy, screwed up food production and distribution, persecuted political opponents, etc., which people tend to flee if they can.)  There are two ways to apply for asylum: be seeking entry at a Port of Entry (long lines, de facto quotas, etc.) or already be in the country when you apply.  This creates a perverse incentive: an asylum-seeker's best bet is to cross over illegally, proceed immediately to the nearest office of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (a division of DHS) and fill out the forms.  Once they have done that, they are legally in the country, albeit provisionally.  You might not like it, but that's the law -- and if you don't like that, your Congresscritters all have phone numbers and e-mail addresses, physical mail addresses and online contact forms.  But for now, the law is the law.  So the "illegals" who were flown to Martha's Vineyard were not, in fact, even illegal.

      But wait--  Well, you know the drill.

      This business of transporting people to score points on perceived political opponents?  It's not original.  It already happened, and it already happened in Massachusetts, with individuals transported from the South: "Reverse Freedom Rides" in 1962 were one of the uglier parts of our country's struggle with racial segregation, and included one busload sent to the Kennedy compound in Hyannis, Massachusetts.  It didn't play out well back then and it is unlikely to work any better this time around.  It was a dumb stunt.

      There is considerable room for debate about the immigration and asylum laws of the United States.  Everyone from President Biden to Governor DeSantis agrees that border efforts are underfunded and overworked.  (Yes, even Joe Biden; if you don't mind being asked to donate money and wading through considerable feel-good glurge, you can even read about it for yourself.)  And any efforts we can make to help stabilize faltering governments elsewhere will reduce the number of people fleeing to the U.S. (which is another thing the Biden Administration appears to be on board with).

      But grandstanding stunts do nothing to fix the underlying problems.  All they do is get people riled up, pro and con.  (It's anyone's bet which side will be the most motivated or even how many sides there are -- the naturalized Venezuelan population of Florida is larger than the Governor's margin of victory in the previous election.)  It is immoral to use asylum-seekers as props in a political campaign.

      I doubt that consideration will deter modern politicians for even a single second.

1 comment:

  1. it's all going for the "pwn," all the time now. And to Hell with it. I am largely civically disengaged these days because people with power, abuse that power, use it to stay in power or stick it to the ones they don't like. I'm becoming increasingly cynical about humanity in general because the ones who present themselves as our "betters" really aren't. Or if they are, we really are screwed as a species.

    I don't know other than it makes me sad, and I think of the comment that "sin begins when you treat people like objects" which seems to go on a lot these days.

    Maybe the desert hermits had the right idea after all - live as far from other humans as you possibly can.


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