When it comes to immigration, what comes out of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ mouth is pure, orchestrated deceit.
During an appearance Thursday at Miami Dade College, he asserted: “Most of these people clearly do not qualify for asylum.”
How does he know?
He doesn’t. It’s political gibberish.
While DeSantis and his operatives were using distraught Venezuelan immigrants in Texas as political pawns to shame President Joe Biden and punk the media, the United Nations issued a scathing report on the state of Venezuela.
The country’s military and state intelligence agencies are suppressing dissent using methods that rise to the level of “crimes against humanity,” the report says.
“Grave crimes and human-rights violations are being committed, including acts of torture and sexual violence,” said Marta Valiñas, of the U.N. Human Rights Council.
No wonder Venezuelans have become, at 6.8 million, the second-largest displaced population in the world — and are knocking at our door in record numbers.
The U.N. report validates their status: They are refugees, as we Cubans were in the 1960s and ‘70s — and still are after the regime’s brutal response to the historic July 11, 2021, protests.
Neither DeSantis’ words nor his possibly unlawful gimmicks in Texas — at the expense of displaced human beings — shine a useful spotlight on this country’s immigration challenges, or do anything to solve them.
Not at the southern border, where he has now twice sent operatives immigrant-hunting. Nor here in Florida, where migrants arrive daily, contrary to his backpedaling assertions after facing backlash for his disgusting political stunts.
He, instead, is deftly adding to the suffering and confusion of Venezuelan, Cuban and Nicaraguan immigrants — to his shame and that of Republican leaders and voters who applaud him, particularly in immigrant-enriched South Florida.
We, of all people, should know better.
DeSantis comes to Miami only to pay lip service to anti-communists, as he did with Chinese Americans at Miami Dade College, but, at best, his knowledge of Latin America is thin.
Or he wouldn’t have messed with Venezuelans for the sake of political theater.
The governor calls asylum-seekers making the dangerous multicountry trek to the southern border “unauthorized aliens” to strip them of their humanity — using $12 million in state taxpayer funds to harass them and prank us, the media covering him.
“They aren’t from Jupiter or Mars,” says Emilio Martinez, a Cuban American immigration lawyer. “And the ‘unauthorized’ is categorically untrue.”
“What they’re doing [arriving at the border and asking for asylum] is not illegal,” Martinez said, an assertion echoed by other lawyers, citing federal laws.
Nor are they “undocumented” like migrants who sneak into the country and stay in the shadows without ever passing through immigration controls.
“Everyone who has been released has a document, either a I-220A, an order of release on their own recognizance, or a temporary parole,” agrees veteran Cuban American immigration lawyer Wilfredo Allen. “They are documented.”
Only people able to convince the first-line immigration officer interviewing them at the border that they have personal reasons to fear persecution get those documents, which require them to show up at additional immigration interviews or hearings.
The paroled are released to live with family, friends or sponsors. Otherwise, they go to shelters and resettlement agencies throughout the country. It’s not “dumping,” as DeSantis calls it, but an established process that he violated with his xenophobic antics.
When DeSantis shuttled a group of about 50, mostly Venezuelans, to Martha’s Vineyard and abandoned them, he sent them far from where they need to be for mandatory audiences with immigration officials.
When his operatives rounded up a group in San Antonio, promising them jobs and housing in Delaware, where Biden has a summer home — but instead, taking them to a hotel and leaving some there stranded — he was willfully exploiting the nation’s complex immigration quagmire.
As penniless Venezuelan Luis Oswaldo, 39, told a Miami Herald reporter: “I’m eating water now.”
Certainly, border towns are overwhelmed, but DeSantis distorts this when he says red states bear the financial brunt of immigration. No, the federal government reimburses all states resettling refugees, and plenty of blue states welcome them.
Another DeSantis lie is that he has to go find his victims in Texas because there aren’t any border arrivals in Florida since his “interdiction” in the Panhandle is working so well.
What a joke.
“Unlucky for the governor is that I’ve had back-to-back hearings in San Antonio to attend,” Allen told me. “And at the airport, on the flight back to Miami, you see 40, 50 Cubans and some Venezuelans and Colombians coming because their families paid for the flight.”
All the governor has to do, he said sarcastically, “is take a couple of FHP patrolmen and put them at the airport to wait for the flight. Pick them out of the airplane and detain them and put them in another airplane to elsewhere.”
The immigrants are easy to spot.
“None of them have luggage, only la jabita,” the see-through plastic bag with toiletries they’re given on arrival.
“When DeSantis says that there are not big enough groups [to interdict and transport to other states] in Miami, that’s a boldfaced lie,” Allen said.
But it’s so much easier for our bully of a governor to send anonymous operatives far away to Texas to harass defenseless Venezuelans fleeing Nicolás Maduro’s hit squads.
Complicit with communists and autocrats, that’s what Florida’s governor is.