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Immigration

Sen. Rick Scott

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Senator Rick Scott (R-FL) and his NRSC are once again under fire, this time for sending fundraising emails to GOP voters asking, “where do you want Republicans to send illegal immigrants next?” The multiple-choice answers include “Barack Obama’s House,” “The White House,” and “San Francisco.”

Sen. Scott is the embattled head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), the official fundraising arm of the Senate GOP caucus. Recently he has been highly criticized by Republicans wondering why the NRSC’s funding of critical Republican senate campaigns has been so poor. Earlier this month a New York Times headline read: “How a Record Cash Haul Vanished for Senate Republicans.”

The NRSC email, posted to social media by The Daily Beast’s Roger Sollenberger, falsely claim the 50 Venezuelan immigrants flown to Martha’s Vineyard by Florida GOP Governor Ron DeSantis, possibly unlawfully according to at least one lawsuit, are “illegal.” They had applied for asylum and were in the country legally.

“Democrats and their corrupt partners in the mainstream media just don’t get it,” the defensive email, titled, “OFFICIAL CORRESPONDENCE,” begins. “Republican Governors like Greg Abbott from Texas and Ron DeSantis from Florida showed coastal elite millionaires in Martha’s Vineyard what life is like on our country’s southern border – and they WERE NOT HAPPY.”

That too is false — there are few “coastal elite millionaires in Martha’s Vineyard” in late September, and most of the area’s residents were angered by what some legal experts are accusing DeSantis of: possible kidnapping.

“Biden’s BORDER CRISIS is only getting worse – and he REFUSES to do anything about it,” Scott’s email continues. DEADLY drugs, like fentanyl, are flowing into our country UNCHECKED – and Americans are dying at UNPRECEDENTED rates from overdoses. It’s sad – and PREVENTABLE.”

The email does not mention that Customs and Border Protection has seized 10,071 pounds of fentanyl this year already, according to The Arizona Republic. Nor does it explain how flying 50 asylum-seeking immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard would stop fentanyl from entering the U.S.

The Cato Institute, a right wing think tank, just last week reported “fentanyl is overwhelmingly smuggled by U.S. citizens almost entirely for U.S. citizen consumers.” But it also revealed that “60 percent of Republicans believe, ‘Most of the fentanyl entering the U.S. is smuggled in by unauthorized migrants crossing the border illegally.'”

Gov. DeSantis is being investigated by a Texas sheriff and sued by a Boston-based legal firm representing some of the Venezuelan immigrants. There are calls for the DOJ to open an investigation as well.

NBC News on Thursday reported the “air charter company Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration hired for his migrant-moving program has contributed big money to some top allies of the governor and was once legally represented by Rep. Matt Gaetz and his former partner, who is now Florida’s ‘public safety czar’ in charge of immigration policy.”

Reports say DeSantis has already paid more than $1.5 million in taxpayer funds on the possibly unlawful “stunt” to that “air charter company.”

Anger over Senator Scott’s NRSC fundraising email was strong on social media.

“Fascists,” tweeted Justin Hendrix, cofounder and CEO of the nonprofit Tech Policy Press.

“The Senate Republicans, whom respectable donors and conservative elites still consider it just fine to support, are raising money by embracing the exploitation of ‘illegal immigrants’ (who in fact aren’t illegal). Team Normal is now simply the wingman for Team Demagogue,” wrote veteran journalist and former Republican turned Never-Trumper and Democrat Bill Kristol.

“How is this legal? This can not possibly be legal,” said former federal prosecutor Elizabeth de la Vega.

“They are inciting hatred, xenophobia and violence. They are morally bankrupt, and are not fit to hold power,” warned Rep Sean Casten (D-IL).

“Andrew Jackson wants his bullshit back,” tweeted law professor and political scientist Anthony Michael Kreis, referring to the late American president responsible for the forced, brutal, violent, and deadly “removal” of Native Americans from their ancestral homelands.

“They’ve made human trafficking a central policy plank,” noted Media Matters for America senior researcher Jason Campbell.

“Liberal anger at the Martha’s Vineyard stunt wasn’t because the people were MIGRANTS, it was because they were PEOPLE—and jerking people around for a political stunt is despicable,” explained attorney Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, the policy director at the American Immigration Council. “That the right can’t understand this is a sign of how dehumanization has become a norm for some.”

“Online fundraising off human trafficking of people seeking asylum. Quite a party they’ve got there,” noted Democratic strategist and former Clinton campaign official Jesse Ferguson.

“Dehumanization and elimination as a fundraising tactic. Another reminder that this horror is what the MAGA base wants from their leaders,” warned Melissa Ryan, a consultant on combatting disinformation and extremism.

Jim Swift, senior editor at The Bulwark tweeted, “the cruelty is the point.”

Public affairs strategist Murshed Zaheed warns, “Republicans in the Trump era are going to operate like monstrous, inhumane ghouls. They are not going to stop until the national Democrats effectively counterattack them over it (ie go after DeSantis for potential criminal liabilities) instead of cowering in silence.”

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

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Immigrants crossing from Mexico into the United States

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America needs more immigrants, but we seem determined to shoot ourselves in the foot. Before addressing that self-sabotage, permit a small digression.

In the 1980s, Venezuela was the wealthiest country in Latin America. Sitting on about 18 percent of the world's proven oil reserves, Venezuelans enjoyed higher living standards than their neighbors and seemed to have a stable democracy. Looks were deceiving. When the price of oil plummeted in the 1990s, the country was plunged into instability. In 1999, they elected a charismatic military officer, Hugo Chavez, who promised to redistribute the nation's wealth and proceeded to befriend Fidel Castro and destroy the nation's economy. He nationalized companies and farms, crushed labor unions, put opponents in prison and seized the assets of foreign oil contractors.

Chavez succumbed to cancer in 2013, but by then Venezuela was a basket case. Today, one in three Venezuelans doesn't get enough to eat, malnutrition among poor children is rife, and more than 75 percent of Venezuelans live in extreme poverty. It is the most abrupt collapse of a thriving nation not at war on record, and a cautionary tale about what can happen when people make bad political choices.

Most of the 50 immigrants Gov. Ron DeSantis dropped on Martha's Vineyard were Venezuelans who had made an arduous 2,000-mile journey. "No one leaves home," wrote poet Warsan Shire, "unless home is the mouth of a shark."

Many on the right portray illegal immigrants as criminals who are "breaking into our house" and deserve to be treated as such. Under U.S. statutes, if a migrant comes into this country, turns himself in to a border guard or other authority and asks for political asylum, he is entitled to a hearing. Asylum seekers are not "illegal" immigrants.

DeSantis didn't see suffering human beings. He saw props. He saw Fox News coverage. (Fox, unlike the governor of Massachusetts, was tipped off in advance.) And he saw the chance to show the GOP base what a jerk he could be.

The DeSantis justifiers object that border states are being flooded with illegals and that it's unjust that red states are bearing all of the burden. But the border states are not handling it alone. The federal government has spent roughly $333 billion on border security and immigration enforcement in the past 19 years, with much of it targeted on the southern border.

As for the burden of immigration, it's debatable that immigrants represent a burden at all. Many studies show that they pay more in taxes than they cost in social services and they are more likely to work, start business and seek patents than the native-born (and less likely to commit crimes).

Those who believe the propaganda that immigration is destroying America should ponder our neighbor to the north. Is Canada a hellscape? The proportion of foreign-born there is 21 percent compared to the American average of 13.7 percent.

In truth, the vast majority of would-be immigrants have done absolutely nothing wrong. It is our own laws that are the problem. We desperately need workers, yet the wait for legal immigration options is years long. People ask, "Why can't illegal immigrants wait in line?"

But there is no line. We resolutely decline to accept guest workers in large numbers, who could fill jobs and return home (without affecting voting patterns, by the way). And so the only way to gain entry is to put feet on American soil and ask for asylum.

Clearly, not all of those pleading for asylum meet the criteria (a well-founded fear of persecution), but the system is short of courts and judges and wait times for hearings are very long. Some never show up for their hearings. And so the word has gone out around the world that if you can manage to get to the United States and present yourself to a border guard, you have at least a shot of remaining in the country either because your asylum claim will be granted or you will melt into the country and avoid deportation.

We are fortunate that so many hardworking people want to come here. If we had our act together, we would reform our laws to take many more legal immigrants (who would begin the application process in their home countries) and hire more immigration judges to hear asylum claims while clarifying that only severe cases will be eligible for that status (not economic migrants). We are an aging population with a declining birth rate. Our national spirit needs the infusion of energy and dynamism that immigrants provide. And we will be thanked and strengthened by people whose lives we save.

Mona Charen is policy editor of The Bulwark and host of the "Beg to Differ" podcast. Her most recent book is Sex Matters: How Modern Feminism Lost Touch with Science, Love, and Common Sense. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.