When I first heard about the Venezuelan asylum seekers who were unwittingly flown to Martha’s Vineyard last week, my heart broke. Luckily the good people of Martha’s Vineyard felt the same way—the good, faithful church-goers, the plain public servants, the firemen and other first-responders. The working people on that rich-folks island all stepped up to the plate and said “play ball.” In doing so, they actually hijacked the intentions of the perpetrators of this political plot to make the largely Democratic citizens of Massachusetts look bad. I give the Vineyardians an A+.

It looked like a hijacking to me from the get-go. Think about it. The Governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, gets some people in Texas (why Texas?) to talk some refugees staying in a shelter in San Antonio to get on a couple of planes by making false promises they would be met (wherever, destination unspecified) by people offering places to stay, jobs, assistance in all manner of things. Some of the refugees had immigration hearings in Texas Monday which they were supposed to attend, so their legal processes were hijacked as well as their bodies. 

The taxpayer funds of the good people of Florida were hijacked to pay for the flights. Donald Trump even felt hijacked: DeSantis stole an idea he himself could have used if only he’d been head of something he could pretend he was defending, like a state or nation with laws being broken, for instance. DeSantis also hijacked Trump’s press attention for a few days and seems likely to do it more often. I wonder about Texas Governor Greg Abbot, who has been totally MIA during this event, and it was his “illegal immigrants” who got hijacked. Why did not DeSantis hijack refugees in his own state? Why cross state lines to commit this crime, potentially increasing the penalty? Maybe he can’t imagine there will be any penalties. 

These particular refugees could have been Florida’s, of course. It’s a shorter distance from Venezuela to Florida as the crow flies. But these people didn’t have wings, just feet. They walked from Venezuela through the deadly jungles of Colombia, then bent northward across Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and finally up the curving spine of Mexico to reach Texas, the nearest U.S. border by land. That would be like walking from here to Fairbanks, Alaska, only hotter. I’m sure a free plane ride sounded good to them. But it wasn’t free—it was a trap, a derailment.

I don’t see this as just another political stunt by the GoodOldBoys of the rabid right. I surely don’t see it as a valid expression of exasperation about our broken immigration system, since the aforementioned GOBs are largely responsible for seeing that it remains broken.

What it looks like to me is a hijacking of the whole notion of America as a land of laws. It looks to me like DeSantis and whoever else was involved think they’re brandishing their political swords in defense of freedom, leading the charge. In doing so, without regard for the freedom of others, they are destroying the thing that makes Americans freer than citizens of most other countries around the world. That is the notion that we live by laws that are applied equally to all. We base this framework on the belief that all people are created equal. Unfortunately, some of us do not seem to hold that belief with any integrity.

But some of us do. For some of us, the American Dream is equality for all, not just for some. And we keep trying to make our institutions and social processes mean what they say, to make us a more perfect union. Let us not let them hijack our hope for that.

Trudy Wischemann is a registered Democrat who writes and votes. You can send her your sojourning stories c/o P.O. Box 1374, Lindsay CA 93247.

This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Sun-Gazette newspaper.

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