Frozen Hearts Club: The DeSantis Human Trafficking Show Lays an Egg
In July 2014, then-Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick defied angry opposition from certain quarters by offering two Massachusetts military bases as temporary shelter for 1,000 children who had entered America illegally from Mexico. "I believe that we will one day have to answer for our actions -- or our inaction," Patrick said at a news conference, flanked by Cardinal Sean O'Malley, Boston's archbishop, and other religious leaders. "Every major faith tradition on the planet charges its followers to treat others as we ourselves wish to be treated," he said. "I don't know what good there is in faith if we can't and won't turn to it in moments of human need."
Unfortunately, as has been true so often throughout our history, those who profess most loudly and most piously to be devoted to Christian values are the ones who make it their practice to sully them. "In God we trust" is the motto not only of the United States but of the state of Florida, but what Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis actually worships are the basest instincts of his particular Almighty, the MAGA base that will determine the 2024 Republican presidential nominee. He convincingly demonstrated that point again last week, this time by concocting and implementing a human-trafficking scheme comprised of cruel lies and just plain cruelty intended to set him apart from other aspiring Republican contenders in the "Who can be the biggest bully?" primary.
Not exactly what they teach in Bible class.
It was, however, an excellent window into DeSantis' character and that of those who cheered on his scheme with lusty approval: taxpayers' money burned to pay fraudulent operators to lie to unsuspecting Venezuelan refugees from a tyrannical regime, duping them with false promises and then flying them to the Massachusetts island of Martha's Vineyard and dumping them there -- without so much as giving Massachusetts authorities proper notice so that they could prepare. All so DeSantis could boast that he was sticking it to a blue state by rounding up vulnerable human beings and shipping them there.
Right out of Sunday school.
But in his zeal to set himself apart as the candidate in the GOP field with the most swagger, DeSantis may have miscalculated.
First, if he thought that dropping two planeloads of migrants on Martha's Vineyard would punish the island's residents, he thought wrong. The island community responded with a moving humanitarian display, with citizens falling over themselves to provide food, shelter, medical attention, clothing -- and human warmth. Gov. Charlie Baker followed suit. The response drew international media attention, contrasting DeSantis, on one hand, with a functioning moral value system, on the other, with DeSantis and his "Attaboy!" chorus looking like the smirking schoolyard bullies we all remember from elementary school.
Second, former President Donald Trump's Florida wannabe mini-me may have bought himself a federal investigation into potential human trafficking crimes. While there may be a GOP constituency for such conduct, Americans more broadly may regard DeSantis' blend of fraud and exploitation with distaste.
Finally, over 200,000 Americans of Venezuelan origin live in Florida, and there are millions more there of Latin American heritage. They may not love seeing their brothers and sisters treated as chattel in order to serve as props for DeSantis' presidential ambitions. This could hit the fan in November, when DeSantis faces a surprisingly stiff challenge from Democrat Charlie Crist. An AARP Florida poll last week showed DeSantis with only a 3% lead over Crist. And DeSantis soulmate Florida Sen. Marco Rubio faces a similarly robust challenge from Democrat Val Demings, who a series of polls shows in a statistical dead heat with Rubio.
"He's carting them around like cattle from state to state, starving them all day and dropping them off with excuses (and) lies that they were going to get jobs and housing," Venezuelan activist Juan Correa Villalonga told a Miami television station last week. Which is about the size of it. DeSantis had better hope that no one sends their kids to Sunday school anymore.
Jeff Robbins, a former assistant United States attorney and United States delegate to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, was chief counsel for the minority of the United States Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. An attorney specializing in the First Amendment, he is a longtime columnist for the Boston Herald, writing on politics, national security, human rights and the Mideast.Copyright 2022 Creators Syndicate Inc.