LLast week, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis paid a private company to fly migrants from San Antonio, Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. As more facts have come to light about how migrants were defrauded on these flights, one civil suit has already been filed against DeSantis seeking damages on behalf of the migrants. He may also be held criminally liable.
Politics and elected office aside, it is illegal to entice people to travel by lying to them about their destination and false promises of benefits upon arrival. But what DeSantis did was not just the behavior of a person chartering a private jet and luring people to travel out of the country. It was an effort by a Republican red state governor to protest federal immigration law and policy by sending migrants to a progressive state to cause disruption.
DeSantis’ flights are reminiscent of trips sponsored by other red-state Republican governors this summer. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott have been chartering buses for months to transport migrants from their states to Illinois, New York and Washington, DC. Their goal, like DeSantis, was to sow discord and disorder among liberals. states and cities.
President Biden and others have derided them, as well as trips organized by DeSantis, as “political stunts.” They are more disturbing than this. These are acts of lawlessness, deliberate attempts by some states, through their governors, to contradict the basic premise and purpose of the Union established by the US Constitution.
Countries have always had to find ways to coexist, even if they have different interests or political preferences. The constitution itself was adopted to solve the coordination difficulties of the states in such matters as national defense, organization of foreign relations, creation of a common currency and financing of the national government. The federal courts, also established by the Constitution and further developed by Congress, provide another way for states to resolve their differences peacefully and lawfully by settling disputes between them. Even before such fights mature into lawsuits, states, like individuals, sometimes have to negotiate the terms of cooperation among themselves. For this purpose, a legal mechanism called the Interstate Agreement has been established. It, too, has its roots in the United States Constitution, which has been interpreted by federal courts to establish ground rules for ensuring that such interstate compacts have the consent of the federal government.
Texas, Arizona and Florida have already entered into numerous interstate compacts covering everything from multistate lotteries to water distribution and child custody and adoption to professional licensing. If Abbott, Ducey, and DeSantis had sought to develop multistate mechanisms to house asylum seekers and other legal immigrants, they could have turned to their counterparts in other states to develop an agreed-upon plan.
Instead, Abbott, Ducey and now DeSantis have chosen to ambush sister governments by surprising them with busloads and planeloads of migrants arriving at unannounced times and places. They have rejected requests from mayors from other countries to cooperate. The buses and planes sent by Abbott, Ducey, and DeSantis drop off passengers wherever they get the most press coverage or cause inconvenience and hardship to residents and government responders.
The US Constitution does not expressly prohibit one state from intentionally causing disorder in another. But attempts to do so undermine one of the basic prerequisites for legal union: peaceful, cooperative coexistence among the states, as well as between them and the federal government. As state governors, Ducey, Abbott and DeSantis have acted unconstitutionally, even unconstitutionally. Although they have not carried out armed attacks against other states or the federal government, they have shown a refusal to participate in the basic structure and ambitions of the American Constitutional Union. This is a step towards separation.
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