I am sure most of you have heard the old saying “What goes around, comes around.” Well this old bit of wisdom certainly applies to the “political stunt” of Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis flying in 50 undocumented Venezuelans to Martha’s Vineyard, 60 years after a similar “transfer” directed at Massachusetts was carried out by heartless politicians.
In 1962 during the Kennedy administration hardened segregationists cooked up a plan to get back at “those Northern liberals” who were supporting the Civil Rights Movement and the freedom riders in the South. Bus loads of African Americans from states like Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia were transported to Hyannis, Massachusetts with the false promise that the President would greet them and provide them with housing and employment. Sound familiar?
The scheme quickly and quietly ended as many of the African Americans realized that this reverse freedom ride, as it came to be called,was phony. Many returned to the South to endure discrimination and intimidation, but some stayed and started a new but difficult life in a strange yet free environment .Those that stayed were often helped by the citizenry to find housing and employment.
Governors DeSantis and Abbott of Texas have promised to continue the flights and bus rides to liberal cities and states and are being hailed by their supporters for taking illegal immigration to the Democrats. There are likely illegalities perpetrated by the Governors from kidnapping to fraud to human trafficking but those issues are for the police and courts to decide. DeSantis and Abbott could be in trouble for these political stunts.
What these human transfers out of Southern states point to is the desperate need for comprehensive immigration reform. The last real legislation related to immigration was in 1986 – the Simpson-Mizzoli Act- which among a range of bipartisan agreements gave amnesty to 2.7 million illegal immigrants. Since 1986 there has been little progress on immigration reform. A compromise bill in the early 2000s made it through the Senate but died in the House. Obama’s Dreamer’s legislation allowing those children brought here illegally by their parents to stay is still in the courts and of course there is Trumps wall, which is nowhere near completion and opposed by Biden.
Sadly, at a time when there is scant bipartisanship, there is little hope for both Democrats and Republicans sitting down and ironing out immigration reform. Such legislation might include a pathway to citizenship, temporary work permits for the undocumented, faster asylum proceedings and perhaps an orderly and non-political sharing of the burden of thousands of the undocumented with other states. No political stunts, just rational and fair-minded reform. Right now, however, the Republicans are only interested in firing up their base, while the Democrats just complain about not being notified that the migrants were arriving on their doorstep.
There is no doubt that immigration is a mess and new legislation needs to be developed to bring some order to the mess. Unfortunately, this country hasn’t learned much from the reverse freedom rides of 1962. We seem to be on an endless circle of stunts.