“One of them’s a one-year-old baby, another is a pregnant woman,” Crist continued during the debate. “You’re willing to use people like that? In this case they were Hispanics, Venezuelan in particular, and have them as props for your political gain?” He said the flights—which DeSantis has pledged to continue despite being under investigation by the Treasury Department watchdog for possibly misusing federal pandemic funds—are “not the way to change policy.”
Crist pointed to his votes last year in support of two historic immigration bills. The Dream and Promise Act would permanently protect Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients and temporary status holders, while the Farm Workforce Modernization Act would similarly put the farmworkers who feed our nation on a path to legal status.
“When you were in Congress, you wouldn’t do it, because you want keep this issue alive, you want to have it as a wedge issue, and you want to pull political stunts like you did with the taxpayers dollars of the people of Florida,” Crist said during the debate. “That’s not what it’s for, that’s not what you should have done, it isn’t funny it’s not right, and you were inhumane in how you treated these people.”
How do we know DeSantis sees this solely as a political operation? Like Daily Kos’ Walter Einenkel noted, the Florida man awkwardly refused to commit to serving a full term if he’s reelected by the people. Pressed by Crist on completing a full term, DeSantis said nothing, only staring ahead with that strange, blank expression of his. That’s another reason why DeSantis and political operatives like Christina Pushaw frequently block media they deem unsympathetic: He’s bad under pressure.
While poll after poll shows that passing permanent relief for DACA recipients is overwhelmingly popular among the public, Republicans have attacked Crist for his votes, falsely equating the program’s beneficiaries with “criminals” and “gangs.” For the record, DACA recipients must pass background checks in order to qualify for deportation relief and work permits. Good luck trying that, Steve Bannon and other convicted associates of the previous administration.
DeSantis defended his political stunt by claiming that “it’s sad that it comes to this but what we did put this issue front and center.” It’s unclear what the Florida man is referring to when he’s says “it’s sad that it comes to this” because he went to Texas to find migrants for his political operation. Mr. Refuses-To-Condemn-Nazis has also tried to falsely tie fentanyl seizures in his state to migrants, when the truth is that the small number of undocumented immigrants arrested in the operations were detained due to traffic violations, including driving too slowly.
Tying fentanyl to migrants is one of the GOP tropes of this election season, so of course DeSantis brought it up during his rebuttal. “Governor Ron DeSantis refers to immigrants as ‘criminal aliens’ and says immigrants are to blame for drugs like fentanyl in the country,” immigrant rights advocacy group America’s Voice tweeted. The fact is, it’s largely U.S. citizens who have been caught smuggling large quantities of drugs. But Republicans have continued pushing this lie, and unfortunately, sizable numbers of Americans believe them.
The candidates debated as immigrant youth-led United We Dream Action (UWDA) unveiled a number of billboards in Florida displaying support for immigrants amid DeSantis’ ugly, nativist attacks. “There’s plenty of sunshine for all,” one reads.
“There are more than enough resources for all of us, yet some politicians are quick to use people who are immigrants as easy scapegoats for their fear mongering,” Bruna Sollod, UWDA senior communications and political director, said in a statement received by Daily Kos. “As someone who grew up in Florida, I know what it looks like for communities to come together and demand better for all of us.”
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After an eruption of even more scandals among Republican Senate candidates, FiveThirtyEight’s Nathaniel Rakich returns to The Downballot to discuss the effect these sorts of scandals can have on competitive races; whether Democrats stand a chance to keep the House; and the different ways pollsters create likely voter models.
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