Ron DeSantis Is Getting Back To His Old Tricks

Ron DeSantis may have dropped his presidential bid months ago, but the cruelty that fueled his failed campaign has persisted. Speaking to right-wing radio host Dana Loesch Tuesday, the Florida governor suggested he would resume his previous anti-immigration stunt—this time threatening to fly Haitians arriving in Florida after fleeing turmoil in their country to Martha’s Vineyard, another ploy for conservative political points. “We do have our transport program also that’s going to be operational,” a smiling DeSantis said. “Haitians land in the Florida Keys; their next stop very well may be Martha’s Vineyard.”

The Republican governor had previously sent a plane with dozens of South American migrants to the Massachusetts island in 2022. He described the move, at the time, as a deterrent against undocumented immigrants arriving in Florida. In actuality, it was a transparent effort to further endear himself to the MAGA right by “playing politics with human beings,” as Joe Biden put it. “It’s un-American,” the president said at the time.

Now, DeSantis is threatening to continue that grotesque gamesmanship ahead of an anticipated increase in arrivals in the state from Haiti, which has descended deeper into disorder recently: Gangs now control 80 percent of its capital city, Port-au-Prince; Ariel Henry, who took over as prime minister following the assassination of Jovenal Moise in 2021, has stepped down; and 5.5 million people—half the country’s population—need humanitarian assistance, according to the United Nations. DeSantis, whose state is home to the largest Haitian population in the US, has responded to the situation with fearmongering—mobilizing law enforcement and troops to ward off what he described as an “invasion.” DeSantis is “[harassing] refugees who are literally fleeing for their lives, to make it look like he’s doing something with a show of force at the southern end of the state,” Democratic State Representative Dotie Joseph, who was born in Haiti, told CNN. “We need to treat those fleeing violence with dignity and compassion rather than manipulating the situation for political gain.”

DeSantis borrowed his Martha’s Vineyard plan from fellow GOP Governor Greg Abbott, who has been bussing migrants from Texas to blue cities like New York and Chicago for two years now—and has been in an increasingly tense standoff with the federal government as he tests his authority to enforce his own immigration agenda, including with SB4—a law that would allow Texas officials to prosecute suspected undocumented migrants. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court’s six-member conservative majority allowed that law to go into effect, but an appeals court quickly stepped in to halt its enforcement.

That was a win for the Biden administration, which has described the Texas law as “harmful and unconstitutional” and “another example of Republican officials politicizing the border while blocking real solutions.” Biden has also escalated his criticism of Donald Trump’s immigration agenda, slamming the ex-president’s family separation policy and campaign trail comments about migrants. We have to stop this guy,” Biden said in an interview with Univision Radio that aired Tuesday. “We are a nation of immigrants.”

But Biden himself has taken a more hardline approach to the border—a reflection of how the dehumanizing, bad-faith posturing by the likes of Trump, DeSantis, and Abbott has moved the conversation around immigration in America to the right. “Republicans officials are purposefully undermining our immigration system for their political gain,” Democratic Representative Greg Casar said last month after Biden visited the Texas border. “We should not fall into the trap of adopting dangerous Trump-lite immigration policies that are inhumane and do not work.”

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