Ruben Navarrette commentary: Some governors show they're tough on immigration — but display their ignorance

Summary: In fact, when migrants and refugees go to work, they're going to make life easy for native Floridians by doing their chores for them. ... Where do we find governors like this? And wherever that place is, do they have a return policy?

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
Brandon Bell/Getty Images/TNS

SAN DIEGO — Republicans are always eager to tackle immigration, even though they're the ones who usually get flattened in the process.

It seems that many in the GOP can't help but say and do the wrong things when they think about foreigners streaming into the United States — whether they come legally or otherwise.

That is, except for light-skinned Ukrainians. Republicans seem perfectly at ease with the fact that, according to the Biden administration, more than 5,000 refugees from Ukraine have entered the United States in the nearly two months since the Russian invasion began.

And to think, not that long ago, I used to applaud how Republicans — at least some of them — approached the immigration issue.


Ruben Navarrette column
Ruben Navarrette commentary
Tribune graphic

This was in 2006, shortly after former President George W. Bush — a Republican who won 44% of the Latino vote in his 2004 reelection bid — kicked off the modern debate over comprehensive immigration reform.

Bush said he wanted to grant earned legal status to the undocumented, modernize border security and pair up willing Mexican workers with U.S. employers to do "jobs that Americans won't do."

Today, you'll often hear liberals say that — when it comes to immigration — Republicans have no heart. But what is really troubling is that, on this issue, a lot of Republicans don't use their brains.

In 16 years, the GOP has gone from compassionate to comical. Republicans get all worked up about a subject they really don't understand.

Consider the antics of the Republican version of Tweedledee and Tweedledum: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

— Abbott recently took a wrong turn when he launched the first-ever "woke" immigrant caravan. To get media attention, he dispatched a charter bus to Washington, D.C., carrying 23 migrants who had crossed the U.S.-Mexico border into the Lone Star State. Another bus followed. Abbott says he also plans to send charter flights full of migrants to the nation's capital.

Bold move? Not as bold as you might think. You see, before Abbott became governor, he served as Texas attorney general. As a lawyer who is wrapping himself in a "rule of law" shtick, he certainly didn't want to create the appearance that he was kidnapping these poor people, or that he was trafficking undocumented immigrants across state lines.

So Abbott made clear that the migrants in his stunt were being "voluntarily" transported and had already been processed by the Department of Homeland Security.


At first, I thought the Texas governor's stunt was obnoxious. But in time, I understood that it was just lame.

When reporters interviewed the folks who had been dropped off a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol, some of the migrants said they wanted to take advantage of the offer of a free ride out of Texas. Who could blame them? But, they said, their ultimate destination ÿ while they waited out the time until their court hearing — was New York or Miami.

— Migrants beware: Miami is in Florida. Talk about going from the frying pan to the fire. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis recently warned migrants who got dumped in Washington, D.C., not to head to the Sunshine State.

The governor's office said in a statement: "To those who have entered the country illegally, fair warning: Do not come to Florida. Life will not be easy for you, because we are obligated to uphold the immigration laws of this country, even if our federal government and other states won't."

Gee, Florida, sanctimonious much?

DeSantis is a graduate of Harvard Law School who must have been absent the day they taught "Constitution 101." States are not "obligated" to enforce federal immigration law. In fact, they are prohibited from doing so.

Besides, it's not like the federal government -- and its 20,000 Border Patrol agents -- have quit their day jobs. Sometimes it seems like all the Biden administration does is enforce immigration law, often employing the same grotesque tactics that Trump used.

Above all, it's absurd for DeSantis to warn migrants and refugees that "life will not be easy" in Florida. I think they got that message when they had to leave their homes with next to nothing. Their lives have not been "easy." They didn't travel thousands of miles in search of "easy."


In fact, when migrants and refugees go to work, they're going to make life easy for native Floridians by doing their chores for them.

Where do we find governors like this? And wherever that place is, do they have a return policy?

Ruben Navarrette can be reached at
© 2022, The Washington Post Writers Group


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