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Editorial

TO BE EQUAL: Governor Abbott’s Christmas Eve Act of Cruelty Against Refugees Makes Mockery of “Good Will Toward Men”

By Marc Morial

“Governor Abbott abandoned children on the side of the road in below freezing temperatures on Christmas Eve without coordinating with any Federal or local authorities. This was a cruel, dangerous, and shameful stunt. As we have repeatedly said, we are willing to work with anyone — Republican or Democrat alike — on real solutions, like the comprehensive immigration reform and border security measures President Biden sent to Congress on his first day in office. But these political games accomplish nothing and only put lives in danger.”

White House spokesman
Abdullah Hasan
Governor Abbott's Christmas Eve

Seeking asylum in the United States is legal.

People who have applied for asylum and await adjudication of their applications are present in the United States legally.

But even if they weren’t, nothing could justify Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s inhumane Christmas Eve stunt. Buses carrying about 130 migrants bound for New York City, where volunteers and family members were waiting to meet them, were rerouted to Washington, D.C., so they could be dumped unexpectedly at Vice President Kamala Harris’ home.

The Texas Division of Emergency Management apparently made no effort to coordinate with local authorities or rescue groups either before or after discharging the migrants into the 18-degree cold.

As many have noted, Abbott’s malice was all the more shocking for falling on Christmas Eve, when Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ – immediately after which the Holy Family themselves became refugees.

Good will toward men, indeed. Abbott’s latest act of cruelty is part of an ongoing and failing effort by politically-ambitious right-wing governors to portray “sanctuary cities” – those that have limited the extent to which they will carry out the responsibilities of federal immigration enforcement agencies – as hypocritical.

The effort is wholly illogical – asylum seekers are not breaking federal law – and has thoroughly backfired, as the migrants have been welcomed with warmth and generosity in the cities and towns the governors hoped to embarrass.

In fact, volunteers and local officials in sanctuary cities have expressed that they are more than willing to accept responsibility for more migrants, particularly as a surge of migrants await the lifting of the Trump-era Title 42 policy that allows the quick expulsion asylum-seekers at the border.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed the policy to remain in place.

“If things like this are done in a coordinated and humane manner, it could really be a good option for those border towns that are struggling,” Tatiana Laborde, managing director of SAMU First Response, told CNN. The nonprofit that has been assisting migrants since the buses began coming to Washington earlier this year.

But a coordinated and humane response appears to be the last thing Abbott and his fellow tormentors of migrants, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, desire. Nor can DeSantis, at least, credibly claim to be motivated by a desire to ease the burden on border towns.

DeSantis, who was responsible for luring a group of unsuspecting Venezuelan migrants Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, admitted he had to go searching for victims in Texas because mass migration is not a problem in Florida.

“The problem is, is we’re not seeing mass movements of them into Florida,” he said. “It’s just coming in onesie-twosies.”

It’s clear these governors simply are using desperate and vulnerable refugees as pawns in a sick and twisted political game. And they won’t stop until they suffer political consequences for their cruelty.

While term limits prevented Ducey from seeking a third consecutive term as governor, both Abbott and DeSantis over-whelmingly won reelection. DeSantis is a likely candidate for the GOP nomination for President in 2024.

The Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution prohibits the infliction of “cruel and unusual punishment” – and the migrants who have been subjected to the governors’ cruel and unusual treatment have done nothing that warrants punishment. Regardless of one’s position on asylum, compassionate people can unite against sadistic games.

It’s up to the American people to demonstrate they share the values of those communities that have “made room at the inn” for the migrants endangered and exploited by Abbott, Ducey, and DeSantis.

Marc Morial is president/CEO of the National Urban League.

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