tags: Press Releases

Profiles in Cowardice: As DeSantis Treats Venezuelan Refugees As Political Pawns, Florida GOP Leaders Fail A Major Leadership Test

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Washington, DC – Yesterday, the dominant national story centered on the dehumanizing and transparently political stunt by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to charter two planes full of Venezuelan refugees to Martha’s Vineyard – alerting Fox News and a small contingent of MAGA Republicans, but failing to inform the local community or authorities. 

Also yesterday, a contingent of Florida Republicans hailing from South Florida – including Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott and Representatives Mario Diaz-Balart, María Elvira Salazar and Carlos A. Giménez – held a press conference in front of the White House calling on the Biden administration to “support the movements for freedom, democracy, and security in Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Colombia.” As Rep. Diaz-Balart asserted, Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua are “some of the world’s most oppressive environments,” while Senator Rubio noted without irony, “We need real leadership and real solutions.”

Yet these South Florida GOP profiles in courage were alternately silent or mealy-mouthed on the major story of the day. Not one of them criticized their fellow Florida Republican DeSantis for treating the very same individuals they purport to care about like dehumanized political pawns.

While the South Florida GOP electeds were demonstrating their acute lack of self-awareness in service of cheap partisanship, fellow Florida community leaders and candidates were forceful in condemning both Gov. DeSantis and the contingent of GOP electeds:

  • Maria Corina Vegas, Venezuelan-American deputy state director of the bipartisan American Business Immigration Coalition: “Where would this city be if not for the blood, sweat and tears of the Venezuelan immigrants? The governor likes to pander to communities like mine, traumatized by political persecution and violence … This is a new low, even for this governor.”
  • Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist: “They’re escaping oppression. They’re trying to seek a better life and freedom, and this is how he responds to it, like they’re cattle? I mean, it’s reprehensible … He doesn’t have to engage innocent human beings in this way, in an inhumane fashion, to try to make a political statement.”
  • Florida Democratic House candidate Annette Tadeo: “Republicans can never again claim they stand with the victims of communism. To take advantage of people fleeing oppressive regimes and use them as political pawns to score cheap points with their Fox News audience and the extreme fringes of their party is cruel and inhumane.”
  • Florida immigrant rights leader Thomas Kennedy: “Where are Carlos Gimenez, Maria Elvira Salazar, Mario Diaz Balart, and other Republican ‘leaders’ who talk about communism but do nothing to support people fleeing those countries to the U.S. for a better life? They are sycophants terrified of criticizing DeSantis. It’s pathetic.”
  • Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava: “In Miami we know all too well why Venezuelans come to our nation fleeing oppression and seeking freedom. Today, at the start of Hispanic Heritage Month, we should be celebrating the many contributions of immigrants who built our community–not using them to score political points.”
  • Florida House Rep. Carlos G. Smith (District 49): “Today we woke up on the first day of Hispanic Heritage Month to news that Venezuelan children fleeing Maduro’s socialist dictatorship were secretly human trafficked by the DeSantis regime and dumped outside Florida in order to score cheap political points.”

The following is a statement from Vanessa Cárdenas, Deputy Director of America’s Voice:

“It’s a unique mix of cowardice and hypocrisy, not to mention a disturbing lack of self-awareness, for Florida Republican Members of Congress to hold a White House press conference highlighting the victims of oppression from Venezuela the same day Gov. DeSantis engages in his stunt and then to stay silent or side with DeSantis. Talk about hypocrisy and failing a big leadership test.

Senators Rubio and Scott and Representatives Diaz-Balart, Salazar and Giménez are “exhibit A” in demonstrating that the GOP is more interested in political stunts and cheap messaging than real solutions or policies to support the refugees fleeing from the regimes they pretend to care about. It seems like a major political and policy shift for the Republican Party of Florida to deem people ‘illegal’ and undesirable who are fleeing socialist regimes in Latin America and who have been admitted legally to the United States to seek asylum. Florida’s Republicans are rejecting, repelling and ejecting them.

The best of America is reflected in the stories and footage of communities stepping up to welcome migrants and refugees – not the political charades and ugliness at home in Florida’s GOP.”