Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, leader of a state heavily dependent on immigrant labor and dotted across the peninsula with their accomplishments, is determined to vilify us.
Worst of all, DeSantis chose to make the target of his anger — and his power — the most vulnerable of new immigrants coming to this country: unaccompanied minor children, who, whether the governor likes it or not, could end up to live out the rest of their lives as Americans.
And vote one day, like me and millions of other immigrants.
What kind of Americans will newcomers make with constant, hateful rhetoric thrown from above as a welcome mat?
The role of the DCF is not to be political
A father of three, DeSantis is so obsessed with keeping new immigrants – legally seeking asylum at the border – out of state that he has instructed the state agency responsible for child safety in Florida, the Department of Children and Families (DCF), with a political position.
That shouldn’t be the agency’s role, say children’s advocates, and they’re right.
Yet the governor of micromanagement has mandated the DCF to take on the ugly task of issuing a regulation that cracks down on shelters housing unaccompanied minor children. The goal is to make it really difficult for people of good will to care for these children.
And so, the unscrupulous people who run the DCF have come up with a way to deny licenses to shelters by requiring that there be a relocation agreement between the state and federal governments for them to operate.
The rule, discussed Thursday, would apply not only to shelters, but also to foster agencies and family foster homes that house unaccompanied migrant children on behalf of the federal government.
These actions against immigrant children particularly angered former Pedro Pan children brought from Cuba in the 1960s, similarly housed and resettled by the Catholic Church.
Yeah, DeSantis’ dogs and ponies show last week in Miami with a few Pedro Pans supporting him didn’t do so well. I’ve heard from many Cuban-Americans, especially Pedro Pans, disgusted by his racist crackdown on largely Latino children and a longtime protector of immigrants, Archbishop Thomas Wenski.
DeSantis’ harmful rhetoric
The governor’s political motivation is so transparent.
Part of his full-throttle anti-immigration agenda includes bills making the rounds in the Legislature that would ban the state government from entering into contracts with transportation companies that legally bring migrants to Florida for the federal government.
Again, there is no illegality in transportation services when immigrants are registered with the federal government and await processing.
So why should DeSantis nonsense matter?
Not only because it harms children, which the American Academy of Pediatrics denounced.
But also because it has become more than just re-election campaign rhetoric.
It says a lot about who he is as a human being – cruel, small, malevolent. If you cannot be moved by the fate of a child, if you are so insecure that you have to crush the future of a depressed child, then by what?
DeSantis has exhibited such divisive traits for years, though his racism has, for the most part, been expressed with some subtlety with dog-whistle language and images of white majorities and token blacks and Hispanics.
Using own children as props
Since the day in 2018 when I saw then-MP DeSantis use his adorable little kids playing with toy blocks in a campaign video, a nod to Donald Trump’s infamous border wallI felt intestinal repulsion.
There he was, indoctrinating his innocent children – and he and his lovely wife were so proud of it.
As a journalist, I’m used to cheap shots from politicians, especially during a heated political competition like the governorship. But it was a mother’s revulsion — and here’s that feeling again, now permanently entrenched, as Florida’s governor continues his wanton, Machiavellian crackdown on immigrant children housed in Florida shelters.
Hateful and myopic
The short-term view of immigration policy of politicians like DeSantis will have long-term consequences for the well-being of this immigrant nation.
They sow hatred between groups and divide the population.
Many of the unaccompanied minors in that country will be eligible for asylum under the laws of that country. They will eventually become American residents, citizens and voters.
Like it or not, GOP governors, senators, congressmen like DeSantis, momentarily demonizing immigrant children for political gain, are wounding the fabric of which a future America will be made.
Their words today prepare the Americans of tomorrow.
Where they might fuel love and gratitude, they instead root disgust and mistrust.
No, DeSantis’ anti-immigrant swipes cannot be seen as just a re-election campaign tactic or part of his ambitious plan to follow the Trump card all the way to the White House.
The fixation on action against immigrant children, coupled with DeSantis and GOP-endorsed measures making their way through the Legislature to silence gay children in schools, should give Floridians pause.
That’s Who He Is: A Dad Who Doesn’t Think About Other Parents who are not like him – or about their children.
This fact should worry Floridians more than any new immigrant resettling in a state that desperately needs their labor and energy.