Sanctuary from Stupidity?

Dennis "Mitch" Maley
Ron DeSantis’ recent stunt in which Venezuelan refugees in Texas were fraudulently duped into boarding a flight to Martha’s Vineyard was a cruel and expensive way to feed the governor’s boundless ego at taxpayer expense. DeSantis is clearly more interested in airtime on conservative media and pipe dreams of the presidency than leading a state with more than its share of in-house challenges.

DeSantis has never been one for originality. So, when I heard that he was aping Texas Governor Gregg Abbot on this front, I wasn’t the least bit surprised. However, once I learned that the refugees in question hadn’t even touched Florida soil, my head nearly exploded. Buried in a 500-plus page appropriations bill passed by the Florida Legislature this year, was $12 million from the state’s general fund to "facilitate the transport of unauthorized aliens from this state consistent with federal law." Clearly, it said nothing about anyone in Texas or refugees that had been released at the border as they legally awaited a ruling on their application for political sanctuary.

But DeSantis apparently couldn’t find a problem to solve in his own state, and wasn’t about to let Abbott and Arizona Governor Doug Ducey steal the spotlight he himself clearly feels so entitled to. So he spent $615,000 sending 48 of Texas’ refugees to Massachusetts in what had to be one of the most expensive photo ops of all time. That’s right, our supposedly bright and business savvy, double-Ivy League educated (yet somehow non-elite) governor essentially spent $12,300 per one-way flight, per refugee. 

That’s still looking like something of a bargain compared to Abbott’s bussing plan, on which he quickly blew through $12 million of taxpayer money at a much higher per-refugee ratio before having to ask those same taxpayers for "donations." This, it seems, is not a winning strategy in terms of demonstrating how fiscal conservatives will save us from big-spending liberals.

What’s worse, refugees said they were approached by someone who gave them free food and offered them the opportunity to board a free flight to Boston, where they could get expedited working papers. That, of course, is not true, as migrants seeking asylum are not eligible to even apply for work permits until 150 days after they have applied for asylum. Pamphlets given to refugees went public this week, and a Texas sheriff has opened an investigation into the transportation of migrants he said were "lured" under false pretenses from his jurisdiction.

To dehumanize people in such a way—people attempting to escape some of the most hellish conditions on earth, at that—for the mere sake of some cheap press, speaks to a lack of empathy or even humanity unbefitting a leader of a boy scout troop, let alone a state of 22 million people.

When asked about it during a campaign stop here in Bradenton yesterday, our increasingly tough-talking governor claimed that it was "voluntary," without addressing the misleading nature of the proposition and then went into some line about how it was helping to keep fentanyl out of our state and pivoting to the "open border" spiel, while trying to falsely claim that President Biden inherited a very different situation at the border when elected in 2020. 

Yes, we have a crisis at the border and an increasingly large number of those seeking entrance are from Venezuela, which recently surpassed Guatemala and Honduras to become second only to Mexico in attempted crossings. But in a political landscape in which nothing beyond giving away money to Big Pharma, Big Energy, Big Finance, and the two parties’ other bipartisan special interest groups can get done without one party achieving the impossible task of a 60-seat majority in the Senate, political stagnation, even in the face of crisis, has become the norm. Cartel smugglers have created a profitable niche industry and pushed their services on the desperate and downtrodden under the "hurry up and get in before the wall goes up" pitch during the last administration, and are doing it under the false notion that "it's so much easier to get in with Biden in office," now. 

These silly, childish stunts, however, are not an attempt to solve those problems. They are cheap political theater at the expense of real human beings that seek to improve only the political station of those who orchestrate them, all so that they might one day be captain of this sinking ship of a once great nation. And DeSantis has proven to be interested in little but theater. Whether it was goading legislators to take up "constitutional carry" or even more stringent abortion restrictions during an already inadequate three-day special session called to address the very real property insurance crisis in our state, or fighting with Disney and drag queens at every opportunity, DeSantis has shown himself to be an empty suit, no matter how puffy it may appear on his bloated frame. 

"(The left) knows I'm the last line of defense that stands in the way of spreading their woke mind virus to the people of our state," DeSantis wrote in a campaign email released yesterday, before asking for even more money to add to his already massive war chest. No thanks, Ronnie. I don’t particularly like the alternatives, either this fall or in 2024, but serious times call for serious people, not second-rate car salesmen in shiny suits and bad haircuts.

Dennis "Mitch" Maley is an editor and columnist for The Bradenton Times and the host of our weekly podcast. With over two decades of experience as a journalist, he has covered Manatee County government since 2010. He is a graduate of Shippensburg University and later served as a Captain in the U.S. Army. Click here for his bio. His 2016 short story collection, Casting Shadows, was recently reissued and is available here.

Reader Comments
SEP 24, 2022  •  Touche' — reflexive replies are curious.
SEP 23, 2022  •  Desantis 2024! Martha vineyard stunt was brilliant. They said we welcome immigrants but when an actual immigrants came they shipped them off right away. Whining we don’t have housing for this people. They talk the talk but don’t walk the walk.
Patrick Etheridge
SEP 23, 2022  •  Go, skip rocks with this article pal. The Florida legislature voted on the legality of this action. You should worry more about our open borders.
SEP 22, 2022  •  It’s not just a “notion” that it’s easier to get through the border with Biden, it’s a fact. Also, every part of this country should have facilities to accommodate migrants and if they don’t, then why?? Certainly there is enough money on Martha’s Vineyard to come up with facilities and accommodations for these asylum-seekers. I would also think there would be enough sincere and good hearted Democrats who would welcome these people with open arms! That’s what they preach, isn’t it? So why didn’t they? Have you ever been to Martha’s Vineyard? I have and I will tell you it’s probably one of the best places on this earth. If I were a migrant I would love being dropped off there. All I have to say to the Democrats is stop being so hypocritical and back up your words with action. Get rid of that “Not in my back yard“ mentality. All DeSantis did was prove a point and it was so easy. Every taxpayer dollar used was worth it.
SEP 21, 2022  •  Given his obvious lack of concern for human decency, how do you think Desantis would treat us if he achieved the governorship again and his objective to be president? Vote him out to prevent what obviously would be his escalation of these stunts at our expense. Christ was a good governor who worked for the good of the state and its people — such a contrast — if Floridians fail to vote for their own benefit by dumping Desantis, they surely will wind up the abused in a sick relationship that gets worse with each failure to counter the abuser. Failure to act is a choice with consequences.
Patricia Catherine Benson
SEP 21, 2022  •  Biden has sent over 2 million illegals back to their countries. Trump sent back somewhere around 500,000. Who is doing a better job with less help at the border since Trump cut the staff to process these individuals?
Patricia Catherine Benson
SEP 21, 2022  •  Trump cut half of the workers at the border , therefore, causing many of our problems with the process. DeSantis is out of the same mold. He does not care about immigrants, LGBTQ, or same sex marriage. What would you do if your child was gay!
SEP 21, 2022  •  Wouldn't someone who wants to be President some day realize we have had(most of us anyway) enough of the former guy and his happy band of scammers and crooks . He could take the lead and actually go Washington, get our Senators and Representatives together and propose the actual legislation to fix this problem, Maybe he does't because Republicans don't want this fixed . Notice how the shift went from the overturning Roe hurting Republicans, to this stunt front and center. Perfect Deflect stunt. The Four D's of the Republican Party. Deflect, Deny, Delay and , Dismiss. They are masters at it.
Clark W.
SEP 21, 2022  •  I see all of the Trumpublicans have come out in force. IF you are one who supports Clown #2 - AKA DeSantis…. And you find no wrong in this stupid stunt…. Then YOU are the problem! Mitch you got this completely correct! Everything you stated about this stupid, power hungry man is true. As a taxpayer, I am absolutely furious about the cost of this stunt! This man needs to go! He doesn’t care about the people only himself! VOTE CHARLIE CRIST to be our Governor!
SEP 21, 2022  •  Delete!!!
Richard Correnti
SEP 21, 2022  •  No question there is a problem at the border. The REAL question is how to answer it! And bussing and flying immigrants all over the country, to Florida and Martha's Vineyard, is NOT THE ANSWER. It's easy to throw the blame on the sitting President. That's not where it rests. It rests on a Congress that just can't seem to get anything done as far as immigration is concerned. It's amazing what Biden has gotten them to do with COVID relief, infrastructure, guns, inflation relief, etc., but as long as the parties continue to blame each other for everything, every president will be facing the same immigrant crisis. SAD!! The only way to change it is to change Congress and we have an opportunity to do that in November. Get rid of the do nothings! I mean the Republican purveyors of "NO!" I've been a Republican for 65 years and will continue to be a Republican Conservative. However, the maga's, their leader, and their enablers are doing this country no good. It's in our hands. VOTE!!
SEP 21, 2022  •  Mitch, you missed the mark on this one. The spectacle of sanctuary cities and towns shrieking over a handful of migrants would be hysterical if it weren't so sad. Talk about hypocrisy... none of these so called progressives care about MILLIONS of people being dumped in what they see as fly over country. And no crocodile tears about spending, please.
Mimi Reed
SEP 21, 2022  •  Thank you for an intelligent and informed article. Unfortunately our governor used these desperate people for a a callous stunt to garner attention in his insatiable demand for publicity. Florida needs more truth-tellers like you.
william e. moore
SEP 21, 2022  •  our governor is a pint sized Don " the con " Trump. why did he wait till his re election before giving us all those so called tax breaks. why is he spending Florida tax dollars to send illegals from Texas to other states. it's the same kind of con Trump uses to fire up his base to win re election.
Christine Wright
SEP 21, 2022  •  I see all the compassionate Floridians came out of the woodwork to comment and defend their mini-me hero Ronnie. Besides playing with human lives, remember this part: these are taxpayer dimes he's playing with. And money that the Biden admin and Democrats in Congress provided by passing Covid relief bills. Could Floridians use that money for relief from insurance hikes, housing, infrastructure, clean water? Stop being blinded and fooled by an issue that does not even impact your daily lives like all the others listed above do. Ronnie stopping Biden's "ghost flights" was even more inhumane: these were all unaccompanied minors in a federal program that's been going on since Bush. Try reading a little:
SEP 21, 2022  •  More immigration judges would alleviate problems at the border but Republicans don't want to fund that solution. Their solution is to remove children from their parents and trick unsuspecting immigrants into flying to places for non-existent jobs. If this ploy is so legitimate, why hasn't Ron Disantis let Perla explain to us why her actions were legitimate?
SEP 21, 2022  •  Boy Cat your comment hit the nail on the head I totally agree.
Cat L
SEP 21, 2022  •  DeSantis took refugees who were already legally checked in to the correct federal program, with hearing dates scheduled, and shipped them to a different state than their scheduled hearings were in. They were told things to get them to agree to go, that were not true. That is coercion. One of the refugees, having already been traumatized, committed suicide. It takes a lot to make a person want to leave their home. Getting treated like unwanted garbage after having been motivated to do so would only ever worsen that persons well-being. That is cruelty. For those who celebrate cruelty…. You need to take a hard look at yourself.
SEP 21, 2022  •  Just about everything you write is ridiculous and offensive. We have a fantastic governor. I think you need to pack your bags and move to California. Sounds like you belong there and definitely not here.
Victoria S
SEP 21, 2022  •  I think what our governor did was absolutely genius! Showing the hypocrisy of the left! A classic example of good for thee but not for me! We are so incredibly blessed to have him as our governor! I literally shudder to think how close it was that we almost had the meth head in here running our state! Can you even imagine with what the country has been through in the last few years if we had him in charge! This is just stupid liberal media regurgitating lies and trying to put doubts in peoples minds. So wrong.
Kenny A
SEP 21, 2022  •  Are you kidding me!!! You are part of a supposed news organization? I guess you think that biden didn't cause any of the other crises we are facing either. Democrats always get away with things then accuse others of doing the same things. That's what makes my head explode!
SEP 21, 2022  •  Since you failed to mention and condemn Biden for flying 1000’s to Westchester county, Jacksonville, etc. We can only assume your Sunday column will you be using the same language in this article, with the person you will be condemning Joe Biden.
Leah Hazell
SEP 21, 2022  •  How dare you call our Governor Stupid! You Sir are the stupid one. It wasn't about photo ops or political moves. It was to finally bring attention to the horrifical Illegal Immigrant issue at our southern border to the main stream AKA "FAKE" News media. They have ignored the huge burden placed on our border communities and by Biden shipping Illegals--in the dead of night--to all our states making us all border states! In February 70 of those flights to Florida alone! How much do you suppose that cost American Taxpayers? Now that should make your head explode! But apparently it did not since you are a party to the FAKE news media! If only your head had exploded perhaps we would not have to endure looking at you fake smile each week in our local paper.
Garin Hoover
SEP 21, 2022  •  The article states “Yes, we have a crisis at the border…” This is the MAIN problem. The crisis at the border is the responsibility of the federal government, but yet, the Biden administration is doing nothing to address the crisis. The left CHOOSES not to address it, and that is why we have a crisis at the border. Transferring a small portion of the burden of this crisis to liberal strongholds is finally bringing much needed attention to the issue. The response from the left demonstrates its hypocrisy. Perhaps the left should support fixing the crisis at the border because fixing it would be a win-win for all. But, don’t hold your breadth on that one.
SEP 21, 2022  •  They entered the US illegally. The only right they have is the right to be sent back to their country and come back in the legal way. Brilliant move by Desantis!
Nancy Witecracka
SEP 21, 2022  •  Hooray for De Santis ! We are being invaded ! We have a housing crisis, a food crisis, a healthcare crisis not to mention the drug crisis, etc! These aliens come into this country and push every American to the end of the line. Send their asses back!
SEP 21, 2022  •  Randy: HK is right, DeSantis IS the issue. Those migrants weren't even in Florida! If they had been, they could have worked at one of the Anna Maria Oyster Bars. Or cut the lawn at my condo complex; jobs rich RWNJ Republicans wouldn't touch.
SEP 21, 2022  •  Randy, it kinda seems like Desantis is an issue. Seeing humanbeings as less than human and instead as political game chips is as much an issue in this country as the immigration crisis.
Randy L Greely
SEP 21, 2022  •  Typical loony leftist...attack the person not the issue.
John McDonald
SEP 21, 2022  •  DeSantis the little tough guy lying to the immigrants and sending them to Martha’s Vineyard promising expedited employment.What a real LOWLIFE!!