Republican governors of Southern states send buses and planes carrying asylum seekers to the Northeast. In the run-up to the mid-term elections, they are fueling the debate on migration.
One limps a little, the other has his baseball cap upside down on his head so that you can see the letters USA in front. The guys – they don’t seem much older than twenty – are both talking to their phones in Spanish. From the courtyard between two hotels in the US capital Washington, they walk in the direction of Union Market, with its trendy food stalls and restaurants. In the courtyard, girls play with a scooter, while their Spanish-speaking parents say they are waiting for friends. An elderly man sits on a wall in the sun, a cup of coffee and the Santa Biblia next to him.
They are looking for work, the boys say. In construction. It’s Sunday, but who knows, further on they are engaged in the sewers. When asked where they are staying, they point back: Hotel Hampton Inn. But when asked where exactly they come from, the conversation stops abruptly.
It is not possible to determine with certainty whether these job seekers belong to the migrants from Central and South America who were recently dropped in Washington at a political stunt by Republican governors of some southern states. They have been sending buses with asylum seekers to the East Coast for months, where relatively more Democrats live. Florida governor Ron DeSantis ordered two planes to pick up undocumented migrants in Texas and direct them to Martha’s Vineyard, an island on the east coast of Massachusetts – say, the Laren of the United States, where Jacqueline Kennedy had a summer home built.
DeSantis, widely seen as a presidential candidate for 2024, trumped Texas Governor Greg Abbott with his planes, who had two buses with migrants dropped off at the door of Vice President Kamala Harris ‘ official residence in Washington the same week. “VP Harris claims our border is ‘solid’ and denies there is a crisis,” Abbott tweeted. “We’re sending migrants into her own backyard to show Biden that he has to do his job and secure the border.”
How media-savvy the actions are is shown when an ABC News tv crew sets up its camera at the Naval Observatory bus stop, the vice president’s address, on Sunday, in anticipation of the next drop.
In the run-up to the November midterm congressional elections, the action of these governors and that of Arizona, which also sent migrants to East Coast cities, is explained very differently, very partisan. The governors and many Republican Party members say they want to show the hypocrisy of the Democrats: let them try to take in as many migrants as we do in the border states.
It is clear that the number of migrants detained at the southern border while crossing without documents has risen again this year. Compared to 2021, which was already a year of peak traffic for the border police, the number of illegal crossings has increased by 42 percent. In Texas alone, more than 1 million undocumented people were arrested in the past year. Most are single men, looking for work in the heated American job market.
Most of the arrested migrants go back to Mexico linea recta. Mexicans make up the lion’s share (more than 45 percent) of the arrested crossers. But Mexico, under some pressure from the US, is also taking in migrants from Central America. Asylum seekers from Venezuela, where poverty, hunger and political oppression reign, have a good chance of obtaining residency status in the US. There are mostly Venezuelans on the buses.