Sep 19, 2022

Martha's Vineyard migrants.

More migrants are being sent north by Republican governors.

I’m Isaac Saul, and this is Tangle: an independent, ad-free, subscriber-supported politics newsletter that summarizes the best arguments from across the political spectrum on the news of the day — then “my take.”

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Today's read: 11 minutes.

The Martha's Vineyard story. Plus, a question about where migrants cross the border.

Photo by Barbara Zandoval / Unsplash

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Quick hits.

  1. In a 60 Minutes appearance last night, President Biden pledged U.S. forces would defend Taiwan in the event of an attack from China, declared the pandemic "over" and said he has not made a firm decision about running again in 2024. (The interview)
  2. Hurricane Fiona made landfall in Puerto Rico as a Category 1 storm, knocking out power across the island. The storm is now moving across the Dominican Republic. (The storm)
  3. Taiwan was hit with 6.9 and 6.5 magnitude earthquakes in a span of just 18 hours over the weekend. So far, no fatalities have been reported. (The quakes)
  4. The Justice Department is asking a federal appeals court to lift a ruling that is keeping it from reviewing classified files seized at Mar-a-Lago. (The appeal)
  5. The European Union has recommended suspending $7.5 billion of funding for Hungary, saying it is undermining democracy and likely to mismanage the money. (The money)

Our 'Quick Hits' section is created in partnership with Ground News, a website and app that rates the bias of news coverage and news outlets.

Today's topic.

Martha's Vineyard. Last week, about 50 migrants unexpectedly landed in Martha's Vineyard by plane, part of a campaign by Republican governors to shift the burden of housing and caring for migrants to Democratic areas. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis took credit for sending the two planeloads of migrants to the wealthy, liberal enclave in Massachusetts, with his communications director describing it as part of the state's "relocation program."

"Martha's Vineyard residents should be thrilled about this," Christina Pushaw, DeSantis's spokesperson, said on Twitter. "They vote for sanctuary cities - they get a sanctuary city of their own. And illegal aliens will increase the town's diversity, which is strength. Right?"

Migrants from border states like Texas and Arizona have been bussed to New York City, Washington, D.C. and Chicago in recent weeks — which we covered two weeks ago in our edition on the border. Those cities are considered "sanctuary cities" because they do not comply with strict federal immigration policies, typically protecting undocumented immigrants from deportation. Unlike those cities, though, Martha's Vineyard is much smaller, with a year-round population of about 20,000 people.

Massachusetts state representative Dylan Fernandes said that the immigrants had arrived without warning.

"Currently immigrants are being dropped off on Martha's Vineyard by chartered flights from Texas. Many don't know where they are. They say they were told they would be given housing and jobs. Islanders were given no notice but are coming together as a community to support them," he said on Twitter.

It is illegal for states to compel migrants to move, so they must consent to be transported out of state. While some accepted the transportation in hopes of getting closer to their final destinations, local representatives reported that others said they did not know where they were being sent.

Upon the migrants’ arrival in Martha’s Vineyard, a large local effort to support them broke out. On Friday morning, they were transferred to Joint Base Cape Cod, where the state said it has the facilities to provide shelter and humanitarian support.

Today, we're going to look at some reactions from the left and right, then my take.

What the left is saying.

  • The left is critical of DeSantis, saying it is a political stunt and arguing that lives are being put at risk.
  • Some say it is representative of how low GOP politics have gone.
  • Others point out that the residents of Martha's Vineyard backed up their talk with an outpouring of compassion and support.

In The Los Angeles Times, Bob Drogin, who lives in Martha's Vineyard, said the stunt "fell flat."

"Using Florida taxpayers’ money, he chartered two planes to fly a few dozen people, including at least 10 children, thousands of miles, on flights originating in San Antonio to a rural Massachusetts island that sees its population ebb and flow by tens of thousands every summer. A tourist bus or two more won’t make much difference here," Drogin said. "If DeSantis hoped to spur anti-immigrant sentiment on the Vineyard, he failed. The island has welcomed immigrants for years. More than 12% of the 17,000 full-time residents are foreign born, according to the 2020 census. And for all the breathless reporting that calls the Vineyard a playground of the rich, it’s also an increasingly diverse community. Some 22% of residents are nonwhite.

"In any case, islanders more than met the DeSantis challenge," Drogin said. "St. Andrews Episcopal Church in Edgartown quickly rounded up 50 cots and mattresses and housed the migrants. An emergency room doctor came down from Boston, while lawyers offered pro bono services. Five restaurants donated far more food than the group could possibly eat. High school students studying Spanish came to translate. The Islanders Talk page on Facebook exploded with offers to help, and donations poured into a Community Services fund. So many volunteers rushed the church with toys, clothes, bedding and other supplies that the police finally pleaded for a stop to keep traffic flowing."

In The New Republic, Alex Shephard said Ron DeSantis is doing everything he can to emulate Donald Trump.

"There is no actual point to DeSantis’s actions beyond weaponizing his own petulance—and the fervent hope that somewhere, even if it’s just online, some libs will be triggered," he said. "It’s a policy that accomplishes nothing beyond doing a grave indecency to some needful human beings for the sake of a live-action troll job. Its only point is to garner some attention from the Fox News set by portraying people who are merely seeking safety and economic security as violent criminals and traffickers. The 50-some migrants who were spirited away are just pawns in a political stunt aimed at raising DeSantis’s profile as presidential primary season nears.

"And it was a classic Trump move: pointless, cruel, designed only to provoke. Trump’s border wall—still his signature policy—remains the quintessential policy position of the contemporary Republican Party," Shephard wrote. "It is, first and foremost, a troll. It does little, if nothing, to reduce undocumented immigration. It is a metaphor more than a policy, flaunting what purports to be the simple solution to an incredibly complex issue: If only the politicians in D.C. had common sense—and weren’t cowed by political correctness—they would just do what was necessary. It is, of course, not a real solution but a scam—and one to which various grifters have attached their own cons."

In The New York Times, Maureen Dowd asked "how low can they go?"

"It can be amusing to mock elites," Dowd said. "But there’s something exceedingly creepy — and blatantly opportunistic — about DeSantis chartering two planes to send some 50 migrants, mostly Venezuelan, from San Antonio to Martha’s Vineyard. The lawyers for some migrants said that they were deceived about their destination, and Martha’s Vineyard officials said they had no notice. Abbott sent two busloads of migrants to Vice President Kamala Harris’s home at the Naval Observatory.

"It was reported that a woman who said her name was Perla offered the migrants in Texas three months of rent and work in Boston. But then they ended up, as one put it, 'on this little island.' This caper to expose the hypocrisy of Democratic elites ended up being compared to human trafficking," Dowd wrote. "The Republicans are exploiting people’s misery for a political game. The migrants simply want to work, which a bunch of Americans don’t want to do anymore. With their pre-midterm publicity stunts, as with their draconian push to outlaw abortion, the Republicans are increasingly letting politics take precedence over people."

What the right is saying.

  • Republicans mostly praised the move, saying the border crisis needs to be brought to Democrats' front door.
  • Some compared the "crisis" in Martha's Vineyard to southern border towns.
  • Others noted how the migrants were quickly moved to a new location from Martha's Vineyard.

The Wall Street Journal editorial board said migrants are becoming props amid "the failure" of U.S. immigration policy.

"New York Mayor Eric Adams, who presides over eight million residents, said Wednesday that his city is 'nearing its breaking point' after receiving about 10,000 migrants since May. Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker declared a state of emergency Wednesday and authorized National Guard troops to help out after a mere 500 migrants made it to Chicago. Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser has also declared an emergency," the board said. "Contrast those numbers with the more than 250,000 migrants who have arrived this year around Yuma, Ariz.—a city of about 100,000. Migrant apprehensions at the border are already at 1.9 million this fiscal year and will probably hit a record this month.

"These migrants descend on border states first, and cities like Del Rio, Uvalde and El Paso bear too much of the burden," the board wrote. "Members of the Biden Administration, including Ms. Harris and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, have ignored this surge and declared the border closed. They claim little more can be done until Congress enacts immigration reform, which they are doing nothing to help pass. Meanwhile, the border is essentially open, which is an invitation to more migrants to make the trek. The omnibus spending bill that President Biden signed in March granted Customs and Border Protection 3% less than in the previous year, despite boosting overall spending by 7%. Border Patrol officers say they are short-handed and often vilified."

In The Federalist, Tristan Justice noted the migrants were "deported" in about 24 hours, as local residents claimed they didn't have enough housing for them.

"Federalist Editor Elle Purnell, however, outlined a dozen 'stunning' vacation homes available to house the few dozen arrivals who inaugurated diversity on the majority-white island," Justice said. "While options run between $1,600 to $20,000 a night, New York City Democrat Mayor Eric Adams plans to spend up to $300 million to house the more than 6,000 migrants who’ve arrived in the Big Apple courtesy of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott over the next year. Poor Texas border towns, meanwhile, routinely see more than 7,000 new migrant arrivals on a daily basis.

"Reaction to the Florida governor’s introduction of diversity to the wealthy white liberal enclave featured left-wing policymakers who accused DeSantis of 'trafficking,'" Justice said. "Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also accused DeSantis of culpability in 'literally human trafficking' on MSNBC. President Joe Biden, on the other hand, faced no such charges of human trafficking over secret flights of illegal underage migrants in the middle of the night uncovered by the New York Post. In the meantime, Biden’s open border policies, which continue to flood communities with illegal migrants, foster a severe humanitarian crisis complete with an actual human trafficking industry."

In Fox News, Karol Markowicz said DeSantis was right to send the migrants to Martha's Vineyard, because Democrats need to confront the border crisis.

"When immigrants follow a process to enter the United States, they normally have a sponsor of some sort. A family member, an employer, sometimes a house of worship. Upon getting permission to enter, they head toward their sponsor’s locale, whether to stay with them or to be provided lodging by that sponsor," Markowicz said. "My own family were refugees from the Soviet Union. We were allowed passage to Italy where we then waited on permission to enter. The equivalent of that would be the migrants waiting in Mexico for the United States to allow them in. This was a policy of the Donald Trump administration and has been abandoned by the Biden administration.

"When people cross our border with no process, the towns and cities at that border are expected to simply handle them and they simply can’t," she added. "It was untenable for a long time but with the extreme influx of migrants at our border during the Biden administration, around 200,000 a month, the situation grew dire. But the political class, in particular on the left, refused to do anything about it. The Democrats are in control of the presidency, the House and the Senate and yet they have failed to act in any way, whatsoever, to stem the flow of migrants at the border... Our border towns are in deep trouble, and have been for a long time. The people who make the policies need to see the effects of those policies."

My take.

Reminder: "My take" is a section where I give myself space to share my own personal opinion. It is meant to be one perspective amid many others. If you have feedback, criticism, or compliments, you can reply to this email and write in. If you're a paying subscriber, you can also leave a comment.

  • We need the U.S. Congress to act, not governors from Florida to troll.
  • The idea itself isn't actually a bad one; maybe we should normalize and organize it, as opposed to using it as an unannounced stunt.
  • No matter what anyone says, it is cruel to play games with human lives.

I'm not sure how much new territory there is to scratch here after writing about this over the last couple of weeks — both in our initial coverage of the border crisis and in response to a reader question about why I thought it was cruel to bus migrants to cities across the U.S.

To recap: I actually don't mind the policy of bussing migrants across the country from border states. It doesn't make sense that those states have to bear the brunt of migrant flows alone. In fact, the Biden administration regularly sends migrants north, however quiet it has tried to keep that.

The uncomfortable reality of the situation is that many Americans — in New York, Chicago, D.C., Martha's Vineyard, and elsewhere — truly don't understand what is going on at the southern border, and Democrats have not made addressing it a policy priority. I think it is totally fair of Republican governors in border states to say it’s easy to talk about welcoming immigrants when you don’t have to regularly deal with daily border crossings. In this case, the Martha’s Vineyard population seems to have walked the walk, and as I mentioned last week, behind border states, many northeast liberal cities are already enclaves of huge unauthorized immigrant populations.

Regardless, it isn't sustainable to have thousands of people crossing the border every day, claiming asylum, and then needing to be housed or being let go into the U.S. with a faraway court date. The chaos of a couple planes landing in Martha's Vineyard pales in comparison to the reality on the ground in South Texas or Arizona or California. It is rather absurd that 50 migrants on Martha's Vineyard or 10,000 in New York City (over an entire summer) draw cries of "humanitarian crisis" when some 8,500 migrants cross into the U.S. southern border every day. In Eagle Pass, Texas, weeks have gone by where they see an average of 2,000 migrant crossings a day — in one town of 29,000 people, about the population of Martha's Vineyard.

The idea of sending migrants north isn’t objectionable on its own. As I said before, it’s the way Abbott and other governors are doing so that bothers me. Sending migrants unannounced, and in some cases misleading them about where they’re going, creates chaos for the towns receiving them. DeSantis, for his part, is the governor of Florida and is spending his state's money shuttling migrants from Texas to Massachusetts. It's an obvious ploy for national media attention, and it's almost annoying how well it's working. This isn't about him serving his own state's interests or governing effectively or helping solve a problem; it's about making a political statement to win over conservatives, almost certainly because he's planning to run for president in 2024.

Again: If you want to normalize and organize the process of moving migrants from Texas, Arizona and California to other states, I’m all for it. We should expand existing programs that already do that, and work together as a country to share the responsibility of asylum seekers and migrants who are crossing the southern border. What we shouldn’t do is pretend the border is secure, make over the top allegations of human trafficking, or intentionally create chaos to make political statements.

Many migrants seem to have misunderstood what exactly they signed up for — or were misled about the pros and cons. Some town representatives and immigration lawyers noted that a few of the migrants had immigration hearings this week thousands of miles from Martha's Vineyard — back in Texas or elsewhere across the country — meaning they'd have to immediately get back on a plane or a bus if they wanted to comply with the law. That's the kind of counterproductive, disorganized and unfair situation that comes up when you intentionally toy with the system.

What our country doesn’t need is a Florida governor trying to create an intentional crisis to get people talking about the border. What we do need is members of the U.S. House and Senate to work together with the Biden administration on an actual immigration reform bill — one that continues to increase the number of lawyers and judges at the border, resolves questions of legal status for the millions of unauthorized immigrants who are here, continues to enhance border security, and beefs up our capacity to take in work-seeking migrants legally who are ready, willing and able to take jobs many Americans don't want. As plenty of others have pointed out, we are currently in a labor shortage, one that would benefit greatly from an influx of interested laborers.

Instead, we get the infuriating circus we have now, with everyone trying to out-cruel and out-virtue signal each other, all without doing anything to solve the actual problem.

Your questions, answered.

Q: As a "coastal liberal" I admit I may be ignorant to aspects of the southern border crisis. That said, I don't understand why Texas seems to be the only state struggling to the point of taking drastic measures? I get that they make up half the border alone, but you would think that CA, AZ and NM would be collectively freaking out as well if it was actually unmanageable. Are they truly seeing an outsized portion of the problem due to geographical factors or does it really come down to cynicism and political preferences as it appears to from the outside?

— Bill from Wayne, New Jersey

Tangle: It's definitely not the only state. New Mexico deals with migrant crossings and drug smuggling regularly. Arizona has some of the biggest crossing hotbeds anywhere on the border. It represents about 370 miles of the 2,000-mile long border with Mexico, and some 400,000 of the 2 million arrests this year happened in Arizona.

One important thing to understand: Crossings vary widely not just across states, but within states. For instance, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection divides Arizona into two sectors: Yuma and Tucson. In Tucson, many of the crossers are young men, who blitz and climb over border walls at the same time in different sections to stretch border patrol thin. In Yuma, old and young migrants are coming from all over the world, in families or in huge groups of 60 to 100 people, and often in the middle of the night.

In Texas, the state is divided into five sectors: El Paso, Big Bend, Del Rio, Laredo and Rio Grande Valley. Rio Grande Valley, a relatively tiny sliver of land in the southeastern part of the state, gets the highest number of encounters (over 400,000 in this fiscal year).

Meanwhile, Big Bend, where I have a lot of family and spend time each year, is the lowest. In Big Bend, where border towns are more sparsely populated and natural barriers like mountains, the Rio Grande, and unpopulated stretches of desert make crossing much more treacherous, many fewer migrants come through (just 29,280 this fiscal year).

This graphic, from CBP, illustrates it well:

CBP website

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Under the radar.

The Pentagon says it is ordering a sweeping audit of how it conducts clandestine information warfare after major social media companies identified and removed fake accounts they suspect are being run by the U.S. military. Twitter and Facebook say they have removed more than 150 bogus personas and media sites created in the U.S., and the U.S. Central command is among those whose activities are facing scrutiny. It is against Twitter and Facebook's rules to run such accounts, though both companies have declined to comment. The Washington Post has the story.


  • 38%. The percentage of Americans who want immigration to the U.S. decreased, according to an August Gallup poll.
  • 31%. The percentage of Americans who want immigration to the U.S. to stay the same.
  • 27%. The percentage of Americans who want immigration to the U.S. increased.
  • 66%. The percentage of Republicans who want immigration to the U.S. to be decreased.
  • 17%. The percentage of Democrats who want immigration to the U.S. to be decreased.

Have a nice day.

A Palestinian farmer was planting a new olive tree when his shovel hit a hard object. He had apparently stumbled onto an archaeological treasure. The man, who carefully dug out the area for three months, discovered an ornate Byzantine-era mosaic that experts say is one of the greatest archaeological treasures ever found in Gaza. The floor boasts 17 iconographies of beasts and birds, and is very well preserved. “These are the most beautiful mosaic floors discovered in Gaza, both in terms of the quality of the graphic representation and the complexity of the geometry,” René Elter, an archaeologist from the French Biblical and Archaeological School of Jerusalem, told the Associated Press. The mosaic is believed to be from a time between the 5th and 7th centuries. AP News has the story.

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