Maribel Hastings and David Torres
Just like an episode of the “Twilight Zone,” the same day news broke that the Republican governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, used state taxpayer dollars to charter two planes and transport 50 Venezuelan immigrants from Texas to the island of Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, a group of Republican legislators from Florida held a press conference outside the White House condemning the administration of Democrat Joe Biden for “supporting dictators” in Latin America.
It would be interesting to know what Rubio, Salazar, and Díaz-Balart would have done if the protagonists of DeSantis’ circus had been Cuban. Would they have been offended?
That is, while the governor of their state carried out the gutter political tactics of dictators, and did so by exploiting immigrants fleeing dictatorships who have come to the United States to seek asylum, these legislators had the gall to criticize Biden without saying anything at all about DeSantis. In fact, diverse voices are already calling for opening an investigation into human trafficking since DeSantis—and by extension, Greg Abbott, governor of Texas—has acted just like the so-called “coyotes” at the border, helping dozens of undocumented immigrants pass into U.S. territory.
Among the legislators in Florida are three Cuban Americans: Senator Marco Rubio and Congresspeople María Elvira Salazar and Mario Díaz-Balart. And while they claim to know, first-hand, the struggles of those who escaped totalitarian regimes, and represent thousands of Latin Americans who came to Florida fleeing dictators, it doesn’t seem to matter to them that the Machiavellian DeSantis is manipulating and using a group of Venezuelans for entirely political ends: sending them to cities run by Democrats just to continue riling up his extremist base.
This without fearing the consequences of this political theater, in the face of the violent fanaticism that the followers of a Republican Party that no longer makes a move without Donald Trump’s influence have shown; a party that has become completely unrecognizable and remained silent to the advancement of rejecting immigrants, such as those who have been sent from the southern border to cities like DC, New York, or Chicago.
The fact that a white Republican with Trumpist and racist tendencies and presidential aspirations would do this surprises no one. But it is still disgusting considering that DeSantis is also the governor of hundreds of thousands of people from Latin América who arrived in this country as refugees and settled in Florida, many of whom are conservative, and it is logical to assume that many voted for him.
But it’s shameful that Cuban American legislators—who represent a community with a history of migration, coming to the U.S. in search of freedom—have become DeSantis’ accomplices due to their silence, only because they are Republicans, loyal to the governor, and that their thirst for power is most important in these times. Faced with this situation, so disloyal to their own people, it’s worth asking if what they are really looking for is to be part of a democracy or serve inhumane practices that constitute a flagrant violation of immigrants’ human rights, people who have come to request asylum legally in the United States.
For her part, the Lieutenant Governor of Florida, Jeanette Núñez, the Cuban-American daughter of Cuban refugees, had already shown that apparently the struggles of Cubans and other Latin Americans searching for better living conditions doesn’t mean much, since she declared days ago that even Cubans could be bussed to other cities. Essentially, she has shown that it’s more important to continue DeSantis’ political theater, even when it goes against your own community.
Marco Rubio, the very one who called Trump a con artist who could not be trusted with national security secrets as a presidential primary candidate—who then turned around and supported him even though Trump called him “Little Marco”—is once again demonstrating his lack of principles. This time he has no qualms about Venezuelans—the same nationality of many of his constituents that voted for him—being exploited toward political ends, even risking their asylum cases. His cynicism is such that last weekend the press asked him about DeSantis’ stunt, and he said he didn’t know the details. Seriously? A senator who has to deal with intelligence and national security matters “doesn’t know the details” of what is occurring in his state in the realm of politics and news media? That is worrisome.
Later he added, according to WPTV in West Palm Beach, that “the bigger problem here is not that 50 people were sent to Martha’s Vineyard. The bigger problem here is that every single day thousands of people enter the country illegally.” It seems that the history of human migration is not one of the senator’s favorite topics.
He also seems to forget that they are refugees seeking asylum through a crucible that has taken them through multiple countries. But he knows that Venezuelans have made Florida their home and that their strength contributes to the state’s prosperity. He also knows that, eventually, this power will convert into votes when they regularize their migration status. But “shooting yourself in the foot” might not be a popular saying that Senator Rubio understands, either.
It would be interesting to know what Rubio, Salazar, and Díaz-Balart would have done if the protagonists of DeSantis’ circus had been Cuban. Would they have been offended? Would they have confronted DeSantis, or would they have turned their backs on their own community, as they are doing now with other Hispanics? Maybe they don’t know or even care now that they have sold their souls to the devil, but being on the wrong side of history could cost them dearly.
It’s not difficult to come up with the answer, because Republicans these days prefer to kiss the ring of an extremist, rather than defend their own community.
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