By: Erika Galindo

Florida Republicans have sent two planes of unauthorized migrants to Martha’s Vineyard without warning to the state and misleading the migrants. This is not the first time Republicans have used this tactic – they claim that unauthorized immigrants come to the United States because of sanctuary cities and states and believe the migrants should be bused to these places. Their reasons are simple: they hope the cities and states are burdened by the influx of people. Rather than fix the immigration issue itself, these policymakers have chosen to push the issue onto the states that have been most supportive of people who are often discarded. 

The immigration system is currently under a mass weight. The system has long been under a mass weight. One of the last times the system saw any kind of overhaul was after the Homeland Security Act, spurred by anti-immigrant rhetoric and focused on surveillance of outsiders. Since then, almost all action regarding immigration has been through executive action, upheld under the plenary power doctrine.  

A previous immigration bill, IIRAIRA, created 287(g), allowing states the ability to screen anyone passing through their criminal system to be searched in the ICE system, turning them over if there’s a match. More liberal states and cities identified themselves as “sanctuary cities,” refusing to engage in the 287(g) program. On the flip, more conservative states began doubling down. Arizona specifically passed SB 1070, created and praised by Sheriff Joe Arpaio, targeting immigrants with greater intensity by allowing officers to stop anyone who “looked illegal.” SCOTUS struck down many of its provisions, though, finding Arizona was operating in the realm of federal power. The damage was already done, though. Other states passed or considered similar laws. The anti-immigrant rhetoric eventually crystallized into a platform for Trump, infamously elected President in 2016, who later pardoned Arpaio.  

Trump’s executive actions were swift and sweeping and came to a culmination with Migrant Protection Protocol, or MPP. With COVID, Trump had the perfect excuse to do what he had promised: block all migrants coming to the United States no matter their case viability. Migrants were stuck on the Mexican-American border pending their case proceedings under MPP. The migrants created camps that were subject to violence and exploitation, often things the migrants were attempting to avoid. On the other side of the border, the same president using COVID to prevent their entry, debated the virus’s existence, emphasizing the act was never about public health. 

The election of Biden eventually offered migrants relief from MPP. This action came after months in office, ignoring pleas from the immigrant community to end the program as swiftly as possible. Now, as the elections draw near and politicians are vying for power, they continue the trend. Viewing migrants as little more than pawns in their political game, politicians move migrants as the politicians see fit, most recently from Florida to Martha’s Vineyard. In their actions, politicians continue to treat human beings as disposable, disregarding the penalities to the migrants themselves and how this will impact their ability to gain legal status. Throughout all these selfish actions, the politicians enact no legislation to help them. They offer migrants no relief. They have not sought to change the system that has created the immigration disaster we have today. No side is blameless either – liberal politicians will happily use this time to attack their counterparts, feigning empathy to keep their political seat, only to pass nothing for immigration reform. 

The immigration system needs an absolute overhaul. While recent actions have eased certain aspects, other aspects have long been broken, being based in anti-immigrant rhetoric. The system has long been under strain and backlogs are only getting worse. The weight forces its collapse. As the system sees more strain, the conditions for migrants worsen. Migrants do not need to be politicians’ pawns to suffer – the immigration system is already putting in the work. 

It’s long past time the legislature put in the work they claim they will. It’s long past time migrants find some relief in a country that has treated them hostile time and time again. But we cannot repeat the mistakes of the past. This overhaul cannot be based on anti-immigrant rhetoric. These tactics cannot be the reason change is made. Change must be made with the (seemingly basic) understanding that immigrants are not criminals for crossing the border without documentation. There is no “right way” to cross the border when the “right way” was sealed long ago.  

Erika (she/her/ella) is from Yuma, Arizona and is currently a 3L at Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. She graduated with a double B.A. in Transborder Chicano/a Latino/a Studies with a concentration in US Mexico Regional Policy and Economy and Justice Studies with a certificate in Socio-Legal Studies from ASU. Outside of law school, Erika enjoys collecting records and trying new food spots and coffee shops.