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Keller @ Large: DeSantis's Vineyard migrant stunt makes immigration crisis worse

Keller @ Large: Political fallout from Martha's Vineyard migrant flights
Keller @ Large: Political fallout from Martha's Vineyard migrant flights 01:55

BOSTON - What if, at the height of the pandemic, a state with a high rate of vaccination and masking - like, say, Massachusetts - decided to send a message to states like Florida with a laissez-faire attitude toward public safety by shipping some of the unvaccinated down to Tallahassee and dumping them in the middle of the tailgating before a Florida State Seminoles football game? 

After all, to paraphrase the vile statement of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis's spokeswoman about Wednesday's dumping of migrant families at the Martha's Vineyard airport, Florida has been "incentivizing" the spread of COVID through their self-designation as a "sanctuary state" for reckless pandemic behavior.

Of course, we would never do that. Fortunately we have leaders who, unlike DeSantis, don't relish cruelty and indulge in inhumane, dangerous stunts for the amusement of fellow extremists.

But in the eyes of DeSantis, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and the other right-wing hypocrites who last month descended on Nantucket - another one of the local communities they've targeted as a stronghold of elitist opinion on immigration - to slurp at the trough of wealthy conservative donors, we have it coming. After all, we're a "sanctuary state" that supports "open border policies," in the words of the DeSantis mouthpiece.

What garbage. 

We are demonized by these far-right fantasies because of a 2017 Supreme Judicial Court decision that Massachusetts law does not allow local law enforcement to comply with "detainers" from federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, which involve holding undocumented immigrants who've been arrested for something else for up to two days so the feds can grab them and move toward deportation, even if the alleged offense that got them arrested has been dismissed by the court. 

Keller: Migrants flown to Martha's Vineyard is "political grandstanding" 02:44

In a number of local communities - even less-liberal enclaves like Melrose - police and other officials prefer to deal with undocumented people who they deem not to be dangerous criminals in other ways that promote cooperation with law enforcement and spare the locals a costly diversion of resources.

Demagogues like DeSantis, Cruz (who filed a bill last year to designate the Vineyard, Nantucket and other "liberal" spots as ports of entry for immigration), and Texas Gov, Greg Abbott (who's been sending busloads of migrants to New York City and Washington D.C.) want us to believe that our political leaders and like-minded local law enforcers are eager to unleash toxic criminals on our neighborhoods. Who are these craven, irresponsible decision makers? Can any of these rocket scientists name one?

What's that we hear? Crickets?

These guys don't care about public safety. If they did, they'd sing a very different tune on gun control, one similar to what most police agencies say. And they care about the very real issues with our border and our broken immigration system only insofar as they can exploit them to score very cheap political points with the uninformed and easily frightened.

Ask yourself - how does DeSantis's grotesque Vineyard stunt promote the cause of political solutions to those problems? It doesn't. It makes them worse. If the Democrat challenging DeSantis for re-election this fall, Charlie Crist, has anything on the ball, you'll hear him denouncing DeSantis for following in the footsteps of the late, unlamented Fidel Castro, who employed a similar political stunt by emptying Cuba's jails on South Florida with the 1980 Mariel boatlift.

In an era when our politics has become a frantic race to the bottom, this is a low point. And it's hard to believe we won't be going even lower between now and election day.

Generally speaking, immigration is a civil matter, and merely living in the U.S. without documentation is not a crime. "Unlawful presence" is a civil offense, not a criminal one.  

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