Migrants fell into ‘Harris’ backyard’ as a political stunt

One has a slight limp, the other has his baseball cap upside down so you can see the letters USA on the front. The boys – they don’t seem much older than twenty – are both talking into their phones in Spanish. From the courtyard between two hotels in the American capital, Washington, they head in the direction of Union Market with its trendy food stalls and restaurants. In the yard, the girls play with a scooter while their Spanish-speaking parents say they are waiting for friends. An elderly man sits on a wall in the sun and drinks a cup of coffee Santa Biblia next to him.

They are looking for work, the boys say. In construction. It’s Sunday, but who knows, they’re working on the sewers further down the road. When asked where they live, they point back: the Hampton Inn hotel. But when asked where exactly they come from, the conversation stops abruptly.

It is not possible to determine with certainty whether these job seekers are among the migrants from Central and South America recently dropped in Washington in a political stunt by Republican governors in some southern states. For months they have been sending buses of asylum seekers to the east coast, where relatively more Democrats live. On Wednesday, things came to a media-centric climax when Florida Governor Ron DeSantis ordered two planes to pick up undocumented migrants from Texas and direct them to Martha’s Vineyard, an island off the east coast of Massachusetts – e.g. USA’s Laren, where Jacqueline Kennedy summer house built.

DeSantis, widely seen as a 2024 presidential contender, trumped Texas Gov. Greg Abbott with his planes dropping two busloads of migrants at the door of Vice President Kamala Harris’ official residence in Washington that same week. VP Harris claims our border is ‘solid’ and denies there is a crisis tweeted Abbott there. “We’re sending migrants into her own backyard to show Biden that he needs to do his job and secure the border.”

The media genicity of the actions is evident when an ABC News television crew sets up its camera at the bus stop for the Naval Observatory, the address of the vice president, on Sunday, waiting for the next drop.

In the run-up to November’s midterm congressional elections, the actions of these governors and those in Arizona, which also sent migrants to East Coast cities, are being interpreted very differently, very biased. The governors and many Republicans say they want to show the hypocrisy of the Democrats: Let them try to take in as many migrants themselves as we do in the border states.

It is well established that the number of migrants apprehended at the southern border while crossing without documents has risen again this year. Compared to 2021, which was already a year of peak workload for the border police, the number of illegal crossings has increased by 42 percent. In Texas alone, more than 1 million undocumented immigrants were arrested last year. Most are single men looking for work in the heated American labor market.

Political repression

Most detained migrants go directly back to Mexico. Mexicans make up the lion’s share (more than 45 percent) of the pedestrians arrested. But Mexico, under some pressure from the United States, is also accepting migrants from Central America. Asylum seekers from Venezuela, where there is poverty, hunger and political oppression, have a good chance of obtaining residency status in the United States. Most of the buses are Venezuelans.

Also read: Migrants found dead in Texas truck, death toll rises to 50

The two sides both say the immigration system is broken. The difference is that Republicans eagerly take up the theme at election time. Their candidates did so before Donald Trump promised in the 2016 campaign to build a wall along the southern border and let Mexico foot the bill. He and the candidates he supports systematically link migration to crime, human trafficking, drug trafficking and gang violence.

Arrivals of undocumented migrants via the southern border have increased this year

The Democrats let the theme rest. Now that the sharpest rise in inflation appears to be behind us and gas prices have been falling for several months, they see that ‘the economy’ as the winning campaign theme for the Republicans has lost its focus. They therefore refer to the migrant expulsion primarily as an attempt by Republican leaders to divert attention from issues such as gun violence and abortion that are inconvenient to the opposition party.

President Biden’s party is outraged by the use of asylum seekers in a political chess game. Harris, who was asked by Biden in early 2021 to investigate the root causes of migration from Central America, said in an interview that the governors are “performing political stunts on real people who have fled violence.”

Food and clean clothes

In her office in Washington, director Tatiana Laborde from the aid organization SAMU also answers the phone on Sunday. Her team goes straight to the buses with migrants, gives them water and food and clean clothes. Then, if necessary, they take the people to a temporary crisis centre, says Laborde. According to her, “80 or 90 percent” of migrants transported by bus are originally from Venezuela.

Laborde, who works on behalf of the federal government, categorically denies that the migrants she sees in Washington were pretending in Texas and Arizona that they would find work and shelter at the end of their bus or plane journey.

This was said by a lawyer who spoke to the press on behalf of the asylum seekers in Martha’s Vineyard last week. He stated that the migrants DeSantis had collected in Texas had been told that “a surprise” awaited them in Martha’s Vineyard, that there would be a job and shelter for them. Laborde has not heard anything about it: “They just said: here is the bus to the north.”

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