Commentary

Why not Virginia? An open letter to Florida, Texas guvs on immigrant junkets

October 3, 2022 12:02 am

Supporters of a range of pro-immigrant bills rallied at the Virginia Capitol in 2020. (CASA in Action)

October 3, 2022
Richmond, Virginia

Dear Govs. Greg Abbott of Texas and Ron DeSantis of Florida,

I have watched with keen interest your kind efforts to provide free transportation for new immigrants to visit some of our nation’s grand cities.

I recall the time in my childhood when I first saw the gleaming towers of New York City – magical sights I had only glimpsed in movies and on our black-and-white TV of buildings that seemed to comb the clouds.

Same for Washington, D.C., and its venerable sites such as the Capitol, the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, the White House and the Pentagon – symbols of American freedom and might known worldwide.

Ditto for Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago. The list goes on and on.

To round up these new arrivals from abroad — the tired and the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free, as it were — from their entry points in your states and whisk them off on one-way chartered bus and airplane junkets to these enchanting metropolises with literally just the clothes on their backs is so darn … special.

But come on, guys. Spread the wealth!

So far, you’ve shared these new Americans-by-choice only with political jurisdictions governed by Democrats.

For instance, New York City: The mayor is Democrat Eric Adams, and it’s in a state whose governor is Democrat Kathy Hochul. Chicago’s mayor is Democrat Lori Lightfoot, and another Democrat, J.B. Pritzker, is the governor of Illinois. The mayor of our nation’s capital, Muriel Bowser, is also a Democrat, as are the mayors of L.A. and San Francisco and the governor of California.

Y’all sensing a pattern here?

You both have an embarrassment of riches – particularly you, Gov. Abbott, with families crossing the Rio Grande in unprecedented numbers in their flight from the brutality, lawlessness and repression of failing communist regimes in places like Venezuela and Nicaragua. These folks, children and adults, have trod thousands of dangerous, blistering miles across South and Central America to reach the land of the free and the home of the brave so they can feed and shelter their families.

And, Gov. Abbott, you have a point that migrants are crossing the border with Mexico, including your state, in increasingly high numbers, a fun fact borne out by the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol’s own data. It shows that more than 200,000 a month have entered by the southern border since March.

So I get it. Texas shouldn’t be expected to handle this solo. To a lesser extent, same goes for Florida and the refugees who reach its shores from Cuba, still an insular gulag and an economic basket case 63 years after Fidel Castro’s communist revolution.

Then why limit your immigrant excursions to cities and states governed by the opposition party? That I don’t get.

Consider my beloved Virginia. Opportunity abounds here!

Almost every year, the financial news cable network CNBC ranks our commonwealth either the very best or among the top states for business. And those businesses need workers! Bigly!

Across the spectrum, from private business to government offices, people left the workforce during the “great resignation” at the height of the pandemic with no plans to return, a phenomenon not reflected in unemployment statistics. Many businesses are so short of staff that they burn their employees out working them overtime just to keep their burgeoning backlogs manageable.

Why are these people enduring such peril and privation to reach the United States? For freedom and security, yes, but specifically for jobs: An honest day’s wages for an honest day’s labor. What they need, Virginia has.

Yes, there are states more needy, but WalletHub ranks Virginia ninth in its research on states where employers are struggling the most with hiring. The same study shows conditions are less dire for employers in Texas (ranked 26th) and the Sunshine State (46th).

And Virginians are among the most giving folks in the country, according to U.S. News & World Report. Its research ranks Virginia as the eighth most charitable state. Not to throw shade on your states, sirs, but the same survey ranks Florida 37th and Texas 40th. (OK, I was throwing shade.)

Surely you’re not holding out on us because our governor, Glenn Youngkin, is a Republican, as are our lieutenant governor, attorney general and lower legislative chamber. Hey, if that’s an issue, ol’ Glenn’s hardly even around here these days. He’s spending tons of time in other states (maybe even yours?) stumping for fellow Republicans in governors’ races. I suspect it will be that way until Election Day … also maybe in the early part of 2024.

Also, if it helps, we’ve got two Democratic U.S. senators in Tim Kaine and Mark Warner. A majority of our U.S. House delegation is blue too, but we do have a couple of super competitive congressional races in which Republicans have a decent shot at flipping seats now held by Democrats. I’m sure those GOP House candidates would welcome your new arrivals into their districts with a laurel and hearty handshake if you saw fit to send them. Shucks, Gov. Abbott, one of them, Yesli Vega, the Republican challenging Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger, is a Houston-born daughter of Salvadoran immigrants!

I’m sure there are other needful Republican-governed jurisdictions that would gladly welcome “the homeless, tempest-tost,” just as it says on the Statue of Liberty.

Why, I’d be shocked — shocked! — if GOP governors like Kay Ivey in Alabama, Brian Kemp in Georgia, Tate Reeves in Mississippi, Jim Justice in West Virginia Asa Hutchinson in Arkansas and Kevin Stitt in Oklahoma haven’t already contacted y’all about taking some immigrants off your hands.

Bear in mind that your GOP brothers and sisters will expect a neighborly heads-up well in advance as to how many are inbound and when and where they’re arriving so they can plan a proper reception and whatnot. I know neither of you did that for the surprise charters you’ve dispatched to date, and that’s something that’s not fair either to the host cities up north or to these weary travelers who have never seen snow, have no concept of the freezing temperatures they will experience in a few weeks and have never possessed a heavy coat. Using those people as political props made your largesse look like a petty partisan prank rather than responsible and compassionate governance.

I’m sure that was just an oversight – a repeated, hateful oversight.

But I do believe you’d find life a lot easier if you shared the abundant human resources that have blessed your borders by reaching out to all of your gubernatorial colleagues with goodwill, with common courtesy and without regard to geography or partisan affiliation going forward.

Saludos cordiales,

Bob

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Bob Lewis
Bob Lewis

Bob Lewis covered Virginia government and politics for 20 years for The Associated Press. Now retired from a public relations career at McGuireWoods, he is a columnist for the Virginia Mercury. He can be reached at [email protected]

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