Carlos Munoz hugs Larkin Stallings of Vineyard Haven, Mass., as...

Carlos Munoz hugs Larkin Stallings of Vineyard Haven, Mass., as the immigrants prepare to leave St. Andrews in Edgartown, Mass., Friday. Credit: AP/Ron Schloerb

Of the 1.6 million immigration court cases in which an asylum application has been filed since October 2001, over 650,000 are still pending. That span covers four presidencies divided nearly equally between Democrats and Republicans, and numerous changes in control of both congressional chambers.

And if one thing has been proved conclusively over that 22-year span, it’s that blame games and publicity stunts won’t solve the problem. They just harden opposition to compromises that could wrestle our immigration system into a semblance of order.

Two of the ugliest stunts to stain our immigration battles came last week. Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis flew 48 Venezuelan immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard last Wednesday. On Thursday, the presidential hopeful told reporters he wanted such immigrants to know: “It’s better to be able to go to a sanctuary jurisdiction, and yes, we will help facilitate that transport for you, to be able to go to greener pastures.” 

Last weekend, Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott sent about 100 immigrants from Colombia, Cuba, Guyana, Nicaragua, and Panama to the vice-presidential residence in Washington.

In each case, these migrants were treated not as individuals deserving of dignity and respect but as stage props, deployed to further a narrative as one might use clothing or a stick of firewood.

It’s worth noting, both as an indication of the complexity of the problem and the reality of these migrants’ lives, that they were free to go to Washington and Massachusetts because they are not here illegally. All are expected to apply for asylum, all turned themselves in to border authorities upon crossing into the United States as they were supposed to, and all were free to travel pending hearings. 

It is not their fault that the average wait for an initial asylum hearing is now 1,136 days.

For Abbott, the D.C. drop was an extension of a plan that by the beginning of September had bused about 9,000 migrants to New York, Washington, and Chicago. In Florida, the legislature set aside $12 million this year to relocate migrants out of the state. 

These moves draw attention to one aspect of the immigration crisis that must be acknowledged: The strain of absorbing the current flood of about 9,000 migrants per day over our southern border is borne by a small group of states and their overwhelmed communities. The spotlight on the chaotic and broken nature of our immigration system is needed.

Those communities and states deserve help. These immigrants deserve treatment that reflects their humanity. Republicans and Democrats need to come together to create comprehensive immigration reform that addresses, compassionately, our nation’s security, its labor needs, and its status as a beacon of hope, freedom, and prosperity for people all over the world. 

It’s a truly difficult challenge. Performative cruelty only makes it harder.

MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are experienced journalists who offer reasoned opinions, based on facts, to encourage informed debate about the issues facing our community.

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