More than two million people streaming through a wide-open southern border was not a problem for the American left, but 49 migrants on an island seven miles off the coast of Massachusetts sure got their attention.
If Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ intent was elevating the broader immigration challenge in this country, mission accomplished. Bonus points for spotlighting the “not in my backyard” hypocrisy among the glitterati.
Massachusetts is no stranger to limousine liberalism with “rules for thee but not for me” dictated from on high. For years, environmentalists struggled to square their green advocacy efforts with their opposition to wind turbines in Nantucket Sound that interfered with the views from their seaside homes.
But the uproar over the migrants in Martha’s Vineyard takes the cake. Long the summer playground for the rich and famous, the island counts both the Obamas and Oprah among its part-time residents. President Joe Biden carried the island by 80% in 2020. The average home sells for well north of a million dollars.
DeSantis’ critics and the mainstream media were quick to decry the entire back and forth as a “stunt.” They have been focused on the legal intricacies and lawsuits accusing him of “flouting state law by flying migrants.”
If only they demonstrated a similar level of outrage when Customs and Border Protection (CBP) released new data showing migrant crossings at the border surpassing the two million threshold, shattering new records. Or when Border Czar Kamala Harris pronounced the same area “secure” during a national television interview.
Above all, recent events have laid bare the left’s inability to recognize or understand the challenges of border states or the issue writ large. Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser protested that the District “wasn’t Texas” and thus ill-equipped to deal with the buses of migrants being shipped her way. A housing advocate on the Vineyard said the quiet part out loud when she let slip, “we don’t have housing for 50 more people.”
That’s precisely the point DeSantis and other governors frustrated with the lackadaisical response from their federal partners are trying to make.
Globally, the issue of immigration does not break down along the neat ideological lines of the United States. In my previous role as U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand, I lived in an isolated country on the other side of the world known for its progressive politics, beautiful terrain and yes, strict migration policies. It was not that long ago the country’s immigration minister announced a “Kiwi first” policy tightening access to work visas. Even today, their policy remains “highly restrictive” with strict criteria.
Granted, New Zealand is an island nation four hours by plane to their closest neighbor. They don’t face the challenge of securing a southern border 2,000 miles long and a northern one more than 5,000.
It’s unfortunate that former President Donald Trump’s pledge to complete the wall never came to fruition, and there is plenty of blame to go around. Statistics show it was getting results. CBP statistics from 2020 showed a marked decrease in apprehensions – 79% – in areas where the wall had been completed.
Plus, the “remain in Mexico” policy favored by the last administration and overturned by the current one sent a message that the U.S. government meant business.
To be sure, it is unfortunate that human beings are caught in the middle of this back and forth. One cannot fault anyone for wanting to come to the U.S. We’re the greatest country in the world. But to remain so, we must understand that a nation without secure borders is not a nation at all.
Gov. DeSantis’ critics would be better off directing their anger toward the Biden administration for their abject failure to recognize the scope of the issue, let alone take meaningful action to address it.
Their inability to recognize the broader picture speaks volumes about the true challenge facing our nation.
Scott Brown served as Ambassador to New Zealand from 2017-2020, and represented Massachusetts in the United States Senate from 2010-2012.
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