Abbott and DeSantis are callous in their exploitation of immigrants 

The “resettlement activities” of governors who openly profess to be Christians are cruel and anti-biblical.

Governor Abbott has spent $13 million in Texas taxpayers’ money to summarily “relocate” some 9,000 asylum seekers across the country, not out of goodwill, but in a callous and cynical way.

Florida Gov. DeSantis recently sent two planes to San Antonio (perhaps with Abbott’s approval) to airlift 50 Venezuelan men, women and children and unceremoniously dump them in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.

They reported that they were recruited by a woman “Perla” who guaranteed them jobs, housing and legal counsel at the destination, which turned out to be a charlatan’s promise.

DeSantis boasts he’ll spend $12 million in Florida tax dollars on his crass political theater at the expense of poor, frightened immigrants.

People are fleeing their countries because of oppressive regimes like Venezuela and Nicaragua and others like Honduras and Colombia that reek of corruption that has distorted economies and oppressed the poor even more bitterly than before.

Men, women and children walk thousands of miles facing brutal “coyotes”, mercenaries and marauders because they feel they have no other choice. Many of our ancestors made the perilous journey here from Europe and other places because they had similar needs and had no other viable choice. There is no easy fix, regardless of how governors act. Migration is at an all-time high due to the sheer number of severe global crises.

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Politicians have kicked the immigration cannon out into the street for decades, and it has caught up with us.

According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency, 7,216 people died crossing the U.S.-Mexico border between 1998 and 2017. That year, 750 people died, perishing or drowning in the desert. It is undeniable that this is an undercount, and there is no claim to an accurate count of how many thousands died on the voyage, even before reaching the United States.

People are fleeing the very governments our foreign policy is aimed at, and we wonder why? No gets up in the morning and nonchalantly decides to risk a dangerous journey of thousands of kilometers, knowing that they could die, be mistreated, maimed or tortured along the way.

The people who Abbott and DeSantis whisked away for their blatant personal political agendas have tentative legal status in the country, meaning they’ve filed for asylum, with hearings months, if not years, away. You remain on bond in the meantime.

That’s not to say that asking the rest of the country to shoulder the burden of Texas isn’t a worthy goal, but our scriptures demand that it be done humanely and with respect for the dignity of each person.

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We have asked other states in the country to share the refugee burden in the past, and we are now doing so for all types of refugee groups, including Afghans. We did it during the Mariel Boatlift in 1980, when people were expelled from Cuba by Fidel Castro’s oppressive regime; 125,000 refugees were housed across the country.

With the current shaky and messy state of the Texas school system, it’s hard to see why Abbott would steal $13 million in scarce funds for his political agenda. However, if he uses our tax dollars, we ask him, on behalf of his faith, to do so humanely, to work with other states to help them absorb the immigrants.

Abbott (and DeSantis) could use taxpayer dollars for the other end of the immigrants’ journey — to help other communities with housing, to help migrants support their families temporarily, and to make sure their legal records are transferred.

Our writings are clear. From the Hebrew Bible’s injunctions to “welcome the stranger” to the parable of the good Samaritan, believers are called to show compassion. Welcoming strangers – right now – means caring for migrants in their time of crisis and not humiliating and degrading them by dragging them into political harassment.

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Editor’s Note: The above guest column was co-authored by Rev. James C. Harrington, Priest at Proyecto Santiago, St. James’ Episcopal Church in Austin, and Rev. T. Carlos Anderson, Director of Austin City Lutherans in Austin. Texas. Both are pictured above. The column appears with the permission of the authors in the Rio Grande Guardian International News Service. Harrington can be reached by email at [email protected] Anderson can be reached by email at [email protected]

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