GOP uses hopes and dreams of immigrants to score political points
The shipping of immigrants legally in the country asking for asylum to the North by racist southern governors is not the first time they have done this type of thing. In this photo African Americans illegally kidnapped by their governors and shipped north by segregationists opposed to civil rights in 1962 arrive at their destination. | Frank C. Curtin/AP

Republican leaders— in their race towards the bottom— are using human beings to score political points with their far-right voting base. Using false promises of shelter and work, the GOP governors of Texas, Florida, and Arizona have been kidnapping and trafficking immigrants exercising their legal right to appeal for asylum, mainly from Mexico and Latin American countries, to various non-Republican-ruled states.

The cruel and racist actions are part of their plan to hurt President Biden and Democrats politically by diverting attention away from the GOP’s trampling on the rights of women and so many others in the leadup to the election in November.

What was once thought to be an insurmountable Republican lead in the coming November elections has disappeared as anger grows with the right-wing Supreme Court and Republicans for taking away the right of women to control their own bodies. They are hoping that their cruel treatment of immigrants legally in the country will divert attention away from their policies, hated by a majority in the country.

As the high-stakes midterm elections are fast approaching, their stunts should not be dismissed as harmless political theater for votes and media attention. In addition to jeopardizing the safety and lives of the immigrants their tactics reflect the power over them wielded by white Christian nationalists preaching their perverse version of “morality.”

Their political goal is to demonize and “other” anyone who does not “fit” into the mythical narrative of an evangelical white-dominated United States.

The recent transportation of thousands of immigrants to various locations without warning in order to sew chaos is clearly a maneuver in the fascist-leaning playbook of the GOP. It is a dangerous game they are playing, where those who seek true democracy will be the losers if they succeed in implementing their hateful agenda.

Contrary to one of the narratives out there, this is not something new when it comes to the history of the GOP. It is a playbook that has been in circulation for decades.

Trafficked at least 13,000 immigrants

According to fact checkers at CBS News, as of September 16, Texas and Arizona Republican governors have sent at least “295 buses with approximately 13,000 migrants” to Washington D.C., Chicago, and New York. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott began sending migrants to D.C. back in April of this year. State data shows that Texas transported more than “8,100 migrants to D.C.; 2,600 to New York; and 675 to Chicago.”

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey meanwhile, has sent an estimated 1,800 migrants to D.C., according to a state spokesperson. Florida governor Ron DeSantis has joined in on the escapades by recently taking credit for chartering two planes that flew 50 asylum seekers from San Antonio, Texas to the island of Martha’s Vineyard off the coast of Massachusetts.

According to the mayors in the various areas that these asylum seekers have been sent to, none of the Republican governors had given the courtesy of advance notice. Each of the governors has claimed that these actions are in response to the “crisis” at the border that has immigrants “overrunning” America.

Ducey’s office simply released an initial statement claiming that “with Arizona community resources under all-time demand, and little action or assistance from the federal government, individuals who entered Arizona seeking asylum have the opportunity to voluntarily be transported to Washington, D.C. The transportation will include meals, and onboard staffing and support.”

After sending a bus of immigrants to the house of Vice President Kamala Harris, Abbott released a statement claiming that the “Biden-Harris administration continues ignoring and denying the historic crisis at our southern border, which has endangered and overwhelmed Texas communities for almost two years. Our supposed Border Czar, Vice President Kamala Harris, has yet to see firsthand the impact of the open border policies she has helped implement.”

DeSantis asserted that the outrage over his Martha’s Vineyard stunt was steeped in “virtue signaling” and that Florida “offered transport to sanctuary jurisdictions because it’s our view that — one, the border should be secured, and we want to have Biden reinstitute policies like ‘Remain in Mexico’ and making sure that people aren’t overwhelming.” He also stated that “Biden can’t defend his policies of open borders. It’s doing huge damage to our country.”

To be clear, the immigration system in the U.S. is indeed in need of a serious overhaul. The pathway towards documentation and citizenship in the United States is marred with legal red tape, origin country discrimination, long case backlogs, and a slew of other problems. Yet, what the Republicans are claiming to the media that Biden is guilty of holds no merit when looking at the facts.

Poor policies continued

The Biden administration itself, unfortunately, has been carrying out a number of oppressive immigration policies carried over from the previous Trump administration.

The “Remain in Mexico” policy that DeSantis references from the Trump era, which forced asylum seekers to wait on the Mexico side of the border as their cases were processed, was still in effect until June of this year. And the Title 42 policy, created by the Trump administration during the onset of the COVID19 pandemic, which allows immigration officials to refuse entry to asylum seekers before they even enter the country to seek immigration proceedings, is still in effect (and possibly being expanded), despite the Biden administration’s claims of wanting to do away with it.

Further, for all the governors talk about overwhelming and burdening the residents of their states, none seem to want to highlight the fact that they’ve been using taxpayer money to fund their kidnapping and trafficking exploits.

The Texas migrant busing operation has cost over twelve million dollars, according to the state’s division of emergency management. Arizona’s busing project has cost over four million.

While DeSantis has asserted that Florida will continue to transport immigrants under a supposed $12 million state program. This exuberant amount of money use comes in the face of many working people, in these states included, feeling the pinch of rising costs of living and inflation. DeSantis’ generous use of money was nowhere to be found when he prematurely ended expanded unemployment benefits for Floridians just last year.

This is all laid out to make it clear that the GOP is not worried about the “crisis” at the border. They are concerned about fueling the flames of fear and division. By pushing the rhetoric of a “historic crisis” at the border they are then able to use immigration— and immigrant workers— as the scapegoat for the very real problems workers in the U.S. face. It’s all they have to offer the people of the United States. The Republicans have no real program to address the real problems facing the nation.

As they’ve done for much of the time leading up to the midterm elections, instead of bringing up any productive policies to address the problems they claim are running rampant, the Republican Party instead has been engaging in culture wars and other actions to distract voters. These latest stunts just show the dangerous depths to which they will go, and it should be a cause for concern for many. Stunts like these serve a dual purpose. One is to scapegoat, and the other is to reinforce the ideas of bigotry and nationalism as to who truly “belongs” in the United States.

Governors DeSantis, Abbott, and Ducey have talked about wanting to show the “hypocrisy” of so-called liberals when it comes to the immigration question. DeSantis cheekily even used the words “greener pastures” when referring to the sanctuary cities to which was shipping immigrants. This is not a new phenomenon. It is one steeped in racism.

These southern leaders lured hundreds of immigrants onto buses and planes under the false pretenses of jobs, shelter, and resources. They did this although there was clearly no plan in place of what would be done with the migrants once they reached their destinations.  As many of the migrants on the buses have recently said in various press interviews, they were lied to. There was no thought given to the safety of the men, women, and children being dropped off in various areas, many with no access to public bathrooms or resting areas. These inhumane and cruel schemes echo that of the Reverse Freedom Rides of the 1960s.

The Reverse Freedom Rides occurred in 1962 and was an attempt by Southern segregationists to send Black Americans from cities in the South to mostly Northern, and some western, cities by bus. Black people were promised good paying jobs and free housing.

A bus of immigrants arrives in New York City. | Karla Ann Coté Sipa USA via AP

One-way tickets

An estimated 300 African Americans were given free one-way bus tickets. These rides were organized by George Singelmann, a member of the white supremacist group, the Greater Citizens’ Council. It was done to parody the historic Freedom Rides of the Civil Rights movement. In a television interview, Singelmann asserted that the stunt was a way of testing whites who preached for racial equality and desegregation. Singlemann is quoted as saying, “They [white northerners] have been crying the sing song on behalf of the Negroes throughout the nation. And of course now when it comes time for them to put up or shut up, they have shut up.”

The reason why this sounds so similar to the recent immigration stunts is that it is steeped in the same kind of philosophy. Men like Singelmann also liked to push a narrative that Black Americans were draining the funds of Southern states. African Americans were used as objects in some figurative tennis match of what the whites were doing with their white country. The lives, autonomy, and pride of the people being transported was not of concern. This isn’t new, but it is just as dangerous in a newly emboldened far-right that is getting more and more brazen in declaring themselves Christian nationalists (the white part silent— for now).

The idea that the United States was founded on white Christian principles (despite the Founding Fathers clearly having said differently) is gaining ground in the Republican party and among right-leaning voters.

According to a recent poll by the University of Maryland, 61% of Republicans are in favor of declaring the U.S. a Christian nation. The Q-Anon supporting Georgia Republican, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, declared just months ago that the GOP needs “to be the party of nationalism,” and that she is a Christian who says “proudly, we should be Christian Nationalists.” This is the same Greene who spoke at a white nationalist convention back in February.

Yet, she is not the only one proudly declaring the disappearance of the line between (white) church and state. The Republican nominee for governor in Pennsylvania, Doug Mastriano, has argued that it is a “myth” that there is a separation of church and state. He has gone on record as saying that America is a “Christian nation.” DeSantis, who many believe may be vying for the GOP 2024 presidential nomination, and is running for reelection as Florida governor,  evoked phrases such as putting on “the armor of God” in order to “stand firm against the left’s schemes.”

In talking about education, DeSantis has continued to invoke biblical imagery by saying, “we have the responsibility to make sure that the students that come out of our school system understand what it means to be an American. They need to understand that our rights come from God, not from the government.”

Talk like this is given fuel by a conservative Supreme Court that is clearly using Christian religious sentiment to decide on the rights of other human beings. We saw this with the tragic reversal of the historic Roe v. Wade decision that gave women the right to abortions.

When people are made to be the “other” they are often dehumanized. And when a narrative is pushed to make someone less than human— or evil— it makes those groups more vulnerable to violence and oppression. We saw this, and continue to see it when it comes to Black Americans, and we are no doubt seeing it when it comes to the question of migrants. It is no coincidence that the terms often used for immigrants aren’t ones that display their humanity, such as undocumented workers or migrants, but rather words that paint them as inhuman or a menace, like “thugs” or “illegal aliens.”

For all of the southern governors’ talk of the Bible, they seem to forget one particular verse [Leviticus 19:33]:

“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself.”

But of course, we know quoting the book they claim to adhere to is of no consequence, since the far-right’s aim is not unity and faith, but division and strife among working people. The stakes are high this November, and the country is seeing the lengths to which those on the right will go in order to obscure the real issues. Cruel and inhumane stunts like what DeSantis, Abbot, and Ducey have continued to carry out must be condemned. Furthermore, there has to be a resounding rebuke of this slippery slope toward white Christian nationalist ideology determining our legislation. This can be done by showing up to the ballots this November to further weaken the extreme right’s chokehold on democracy.


Chauncey K. Robinson
Chauncey K. Robinson

Chauncey K. Robinson is an award winning journalist and film critic. Born and raised in Newark, New Jersey, she has a strong love for storytelling and history. She believes narrative greatly influences the way we see the world, which is why she's all about dissecting and analyzing stories and culture to help inform and empower the people.