Sep 15, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Border Dem slams "soulless" DeSantis over Martha's Vineyard stunt

Veronica Escobar

Texas Rep. Veronica Escobar. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas), whose district is seeing a large number of migrants cross the U.S. border, excoriated Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as a "soulless human being" on Thursday for flying migrants, reportedly without sharing the destination, to Martha's Vineyard.

Why it matters: Escobar's reaction reflects how many Democrats and immigration advocates have reacted to the move. They've criticized DeSantis for treating humans as "pawns" in a political game — a characterization several other border members used in conversations with Axios.

What's happening: DeSantis, along with fellow GOP Govs. Greg Abbott of Texas and Doug Ducey of Arizona, have sought to draw attention to the large number of migrants and asylum-seekers arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border by transporting them to Democratic enclaves such as New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C.

What they're saying: Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) slammed DeSantis' move as "grandstanding" in an election season, telling Axios, "I think it's orchestrated and it borders on cruelty because there's no solution being offered."

  • "You know these people trapped in this situation become cannon fodder as symbols of ‘look what's going on,'" Grijalva said. "It's cruel and it's politically motivated. It’s sad."
  • Escobar, in an interview with Axios, denounced all three governors' behavior as "malicious," "hateful" and "demeaning." But she singled out DeSantis as "taking it to a new low, lying to people in the way that he's lied to them."
  • "You know the people who frequently like to have scripture on the lips and hate in their heart? He reminds me of them," Escobar said.

Between the lines: Escobar noted that nongovernmental organizations have long bussed migrants from the border to other communities where they can be sponsored or reconnect with family members.

  • But she highlighted the difference in "intent" with what the GOP governors have been doing, accusing them of competing to "debase themselves as much as they can as they grovel for the votes of people who are excited by racism and bigotry."

Other Democrats took a softer approach in their criticism.

  • Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), who has long been critical of the Biden administration's border policies, said he didn't "necessarily agree with the politics of the stunt."
  • But he said the government needs "to be doing more to dissuade migrants from coming to the United States. ... Our whole country is now feeling the effects of open borders."
  • Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-Texas) texted simply, "monkey see, monkey do."

The other side: Leading Republicans defended the governors' actions.

  • Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) called it a "terrific idea."
  • "This is a national responsibility. It should be a national burden, and we're talking about a minuscule percentage of the overall numbers that are coming," Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) told reporters.

Others were less emphatic. "I get why the governors are doing it. I get why the mayor of El Paso is doing it. It is a political ploy. It makes headlines," Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Texas) told Axios' Josh Kraushaar.

  • But Gonzales added a warning that "anytime you’re using people as political ploys, it’s dangerous."
  • He argued that migrants are often being sent to places they are already heading, and he raised concern that offering transportation to migrants and asylum-seekers could further encourage immigration.
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