tags: Press Releases

The DeSantis Stunt: Cruelty is the Point, Distraction is the Goal, and the Majority is Appalled

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Vanessa Cárdenas: “just like its ‘divide-and-distract’ predecessor, Caravans 2.0 may inflame the MAGA base, but most Americans are appalled by the dehumanization, the political motivations, the deception used to lure people into acting as pawns and the raw cruelty.”

Washington, DC – Amidst national and Florida blowback to his vile, dehumanizing and taxpayer-funded, Fox-coordinated stunt to transport Venezuelan refugees to Martha’s Vineyard under false pretenses, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis took refuge at Republican political rallies in Kansas and Wisconsin this weekend in his latest effort to burnish his national brand among MAGA voters. 

In his Kansas and Wisconsin remarks, where he is stumping for GOP candidates and building his national profile for future office, DeSantis underscored the GOP game on display and his political motivations behind the stunt. He said that the country’s immigration system is now “on the ballot” this November, and counseled other Republicans across the country to follow his lead by injecting the issue into their races, saying, “This border is now an issue in these elections … I think it’s something that our candidates need to take.”

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

“In the absence of real solutions, Ron DeSantis and other Republicans seek to distract by cruelly scapegoating immigrants. We don’t know what’s next for him and other Republicans hoping that ugly nativist stunts stoking fear over ‘the other’ will refocus attention on immigration and the border for the ‘22 homestretch. But we do know Republican Governors like DeSantis, Abbott of Texas and Ducey of Arizona vying for the love of Trump’s MAGA base are unlikely to back down and are looking to shake up the focus of the midterms. 

Republicans don’t want to discuss their attack on abortion rights, falling gas prices, low unemployment, or easy access to assault-style weapons. They don’t want to discuss how all Republicans voted against Democratic legislation to tackle climate change, expand health care and reduce inflation. They’re desperate to instead change the subject and are turning to their old stand-by, immigrants and people of color.

It’s the 2022 midterms version of the ‘scary migrant caravans’ of the 2018 homestretch. In the absence of Central American caravans to hype, they are manufacturing their own with buses and planes sent by Republicans north. But just like its ‘divide-and-distract’ predecessor, Caravans 2.0 may inflame the MAGA base, but most Americans are appalled by the dehumanization, the political motivations, the deception used to lure people into acting as pawns and the raw cruelty.

Yes, there are real concerns about border issues and real needs for solutions instead of gamesmanship. But abstract concerns about the border play differently when the focus shifts to real people affected by such vile and open cruelty and to real people – including people of faith – offering shelter and food to those in need and offering a welcoming counterexample to the tax-payer funded campaign activities and cruelty from DeSantis and the GOP.”

Among a heavy volume of media attention to the DeSantis stunt, a few pieces of commentary and coverage jump out:

    • Ayman Mohyeldin on MSNBC: On his MSNBC show, Mohyeldin blasted DeSantis for his “cartoonishly vile” stunt, noting in a powerful riff: “Republicans are desperate to change the conversation … They use the one tool that they’ve used for decades to rile up their base: dehumanizing poor, innocent brown people … The residents of the island [Martha’s Vineyard] welcomed the migrants with open arms … The ‘godless libs, as DeSantis and his ilk are so fond of grousing about, proved themselves to be far more Christian than their faux fundamentalist friends thought possible. There’s nothing Christian about dehumanizing migrants for political purposes.”
    • Jennifer Rubin in her Washington Post column,Republicans are Wearing Cruelty as a Badge of Honor,” writes: “Let’s put it this way: Sending migrants to ‘liberal elites’ attempts to use non-White human beings as ‘punishment.’ This conduct is not only dehumanizing; it is racist … but the MAGA base is delighted, which is why DeSantis is doing it.”
  • Spanish language media highlighted important details in their continued coverage (translated by America’s Voice):
    • Univision article, “‘They lied to us’: migrants say they were not informed when they were transferred and now they are exposed to deportation,” notes: a Venezuelan migrant declared: “They lied to us. We were told we were going to Massachusetts (…) but we didn’t know we were coming here (to Martha’s Vineyard). So when we got here, we found ourselves surprised.”
    • Telemundo highlighted Venezuelan migrant voices’ and their painful words, in an article titled “‘We were victims of a hoax’: migrants sent by DeSantis to Martha’s Vineyard say how they were put on a plane.” One of the migrants said: “They told us that we were going to arrive here (to Martha’s Vineyard) and we were going to have lodging, work, and food”, while another confirmed that “we were victims of a deception, of a mockery.”
  • As Religion News Service columnist Jonathan Merritt points out in a piece, “Southern governors sending migrants north face a crisis of faith,” the DeSantis cruelty presents a challenge to faith-voters. “DeSantis likes to play the part of a proud Christian on the campaign trail, even commandeering Bible verses in stump speeches. But apparently, when it comes to the Bible’s repeated commands along the lines of ‘do not mistreat or oppress an immigrant,’ he’s willing to make some compromises. And who can blame him? It’s getting harder for a politician to adhere to Christian morals and get elected president.”