Statement by Donald Kerwin: On The Transport of Migrants from the Border
October 6, 2022
Statement by Donald Kerwin
Executive Director, Center for Migration Studies of New York
On The Transport of Migrants from the Border
The Center for Migration Studies (CMS) has received many inquiries about the transport of migrants by Republican southern governors—Greg Abbott of Texas, Ron Desantis of Florida, and Doug Ducey of Arizona—to Washington, DC, New York City, and Chicago by bus and, more recently, to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts by plane.
Joining with the voices of many Catholic bishops and other community leaders across the nation, we call for a halt to these transfers, which exploit human beings for political purposes.
Most of those now being moved are Venezuelan, Nicaraguan, and Cuban refugees who are fleeing repressive regimes in search of protection and freedom in our democracy. Politically, it is dismaying that these Republican governors would treat refugees and migrants from these regimes so cavalierly, in a misguided attempt to improve their political standing with their base supporters. There was a time when the party of Lincoln used to champion the asylum claims of desperate persons from such countries, especially those from our own hemisphere.
Now, the strategy of Republican leaders is very explicitly to use human beings—forced migrants, legally here, who have survived a journey which is killing a record number of persons—as political props, a means to an end, and a tool to divide their fellow citizens.
Gov. Desantis put into motion a plan that promised migrants jobs, housing and other benefits in their destination—as human traffickers would do. All three governors deposit migrants at these destinations without any coordination with the local governments or local charities, including Catholic Charities. We applaud the response of Catholic Charities and other agencies that are meeting the needs of these migrants, our brothers and sisters.
Governors Abbott, Ducey, and now, DeSantis—all of whom are Catholic—claim that the migrants accepted their offers for transport voluntarily, but these claims need to be taken with a grain of salt. Many migrants report knowing of no other option, and according to a recent report, only 15 percent of the migrants taken to the nation’s capital wish to remain there, while the remainder will move on to find family and work in other parts of the country.
How should we as US citizens—and, more specifically, as Catholics—understand and respond to these tactics?
First, it is inhumane to use human beings as a means to a political end. Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of the Archdiocese of San Antonio wrote that “to use migrants and refugees as pawns offends God, destroys society and shows how low individuals can (stoop) for personal gains.”
We agree. What these Catholic politicians are doing is inimical to Catholic teaching. It also further poisons the political discourse on immigration.
Second, the premise under which the governors pursue this policy—that the border bears the brunt of migrants seeking protection and that the hypocrisy of destination communities needs to be exposed —is misleading. The destination jurisdictions, which have large immigrant populations and are doing their best to welcome these migrants, are not hypocritical. People have been passing through our borders and arriving in these communities throughout our nation’s history. In a sense, the “border” reached them long ago.
Finally, these cynical tactics do nothing to create better policies or promote positive reform of our nation’s immigration system. Rather, they move our nation further away from bipartisan efforts to repair and reform the system so that immigration to our country is fair, humane, and based on the rule of law.
In the end, immigrants are hopeful, self-sacrificing, hard-working, and looking for a measure of security. Knowing this, all citizens should reject these tactics and hold their elected officials accountable, urging them to show real leadership and to work together for long-lasting solutions to our immigration challenges.
October 6, 2022