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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 Vice President 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. 

These asylum seekers 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.

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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.

Crossposted from Informed Comment.