Martha’s Vineyard and the high price of liberal Jewish ‘compassion’

by Jonathan Tobin

Reform movement criticism of Ron De Santis’s publicity stunt illustrates cluelessness about the consequences of the open-borders immigration policies it supports.

Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, United States, June 15, 2008. Credit: Michele Schaffer/Wikimedia Commons.

Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, United States, June 15, 2008. Credit: Michele Schaffer/Wikimedia Commons.

(JNS) It’s hard to recall any incident or issue that better demonstrates the stark partisan divide in the United States than Florida Gov. Ron De Santis’s decision to fly 50 migrants to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. For Republicans, it was a brilliant illustration of the hypocrisy of those who have been declaring their municipalities as “sanctuary cities,” while advocating for policies that set off a surge of millions of illegals across America’s virtually undefended borders–people who were encouraged by Democratic Party promises of amnesty and non-enforcement of the law.

For Democrats, De Santis’s publicity stunt was a cynical act that turned human beings into political props. Others on the left have gone as far as to claim that it was cruel, inhuman and even an example of “human trafficking.”

Democrats are right about the cynicism. The illegals from Venezuela who found themselves in the high-end enclave where many of the country’s liberal millionaires—such as former President Barack Obama—spend their summer vacations were being used as props by the Sunshine State governor.

But accepting the idea that it was cruel or inhumane, let alone a case of human trafficking, seems to rest on a willingness to ignore how it is that many, if not most, illegals cross the border. It also appears to involve the belief that it is the responsibility of border communities and states to deal with the flood of migrants, and yet at the same time asking people who live elsewhere—who like to pose as believers in welcoming newcomers—to foot the bill and cope with the problem is beyond the pale.

As for whether De Santis’s stunt was illegal, as some are asserting: As infuriating as it was to his opponents, I’m not under the impression that engaging in irony is against the law.

In recent months, the governors of Texas and Arizona sent hundreds of busloads of people who entered the U.S. without permission to deep-blue enclaves like New York City, Washington, D.C. and Chicago.  Liberals in such cities, which are far removed from the country’s border crisis, have been lecturing Republicans for years about the imperative for them to live up to the promise of Emma Lazarus’s poem on the base of the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses.”

And they’ve accused Republicans who want strict border enforcement of being hard-hearted xenophobes. Yet, when some of those illegals land in their midst, liberals cry foul.

This could all be dismissed as mere political gamesmanship. But the decision of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC) to weigh in on it raises it to a new level of hypocrisy. For the RAC to use its authority as the voice of the nation’s largest Jewish denomination to double down on the notion that it was a “grave moral failing” to move the migrants from Florida to a wealthy resort that was a self-proclaimed “sanctuary city” wasn’t merely absurd; it was yet another example of how the RAC is nothing more than a Democratic Party mouthpiece.

It also calls into question whether anyone at the RAC is willing to take responsibility for the fact that the group’s advocacy has led directly to a humanitarian crisis, not just a political scandal.

In the past two years, since Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election, the onslaught of illegal immigrants has overwhelmed the resources of those who live at the border. Biden’s refusal to enforce the law has acted as a flashing green light to people in Central and South America who want to leave their existing homes for the hope of a better life in the U.S. without gaining legal permission to enter.

Identifying with these people is easy for most of the Jewish community, much of which is descended from the massive wave of immigration from Eastern Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Today’s immigrants are, in many respects, like the millions who arrived on the shores of the U.S. in pursuit of economic opportunity and the promise of American freedom.

But many liberal Jews are also invoking the plight of Jewish refugees from Hitler’s Europe in the 1930s and 40s to justify their support for what is, in effect, the Biden administration’s open-borders policy.

Unlike the Jews fleeing the Nazis, however, few of today’s immigrants are under a death sentence if they fail to find a place to which they can escape. Pretending that every illegal immigrant who seeks to evade the law by living in the shadows is in some way reminiscent of Anne Frank is to mischaracterize contemporary conditions and an utterly inappropriate Holocaust analogy.

Liberal Jewish groups like the RAC and their many allies who have been advocating immigration reform that amounts to amnesty; unfairly attacking the Border Police when it tries to do its job; and supporting Biden’s non-enforcement of the laws while calling for even more “leniency;” are also blind to the consequences of their ideas.

The millions who have poured into the country—with some being caught and released to await adjudication of bogus asylum claims, and others simply evading capture and beginning life outside the law—have created a situation at the border that is nothing short of a catastrophe. Communities have been overwhelmed by the challenge of providing for those who come to the U.S. with nothing and need food, shelter and other assistance.

Most of those crossing the southern border are forced to pay smugglers who work under the authority of the drug cartels that operate with virtual impunity in northern Mexico. This has created an enormous windfall for these criminals and provided them with a population upon which they can prey.

That means not only more illegal drugs—like fentanyl, which is helping to exacerbate the opioid addiction epidemic—being smuggled across the border. It also means more actual human trafficking, in which women and children are abused.

The massive scale of this crisis is the direct result of liberal political advocacy. But it was a problem that has been largely invisible in the corporate media. De Santis wasn’t wrong when he quipped that the arrival of a few immigrants in Martha’s Vineyard generated more press coverage than what is happening at the border.

Jews are enjoined by our faith to treat the “strangers” among us with respect and kindness, because we were once also strangers. But this compassion has now manifested itself in ways that are undermining respect for the rule of law that is the foundation of American liberty. It has also created a humanitarian problem that Jewish liberals think red-state border communities should accept with no questions asked.

What De Santis and the other Republicans have done is to draw attention to a problem that the advocates for “sanctuary” were happy to ignore. It may have been a cynical move, but it was also necessary.

The rhetoric about welcoming strangers sounds very high-minded. But those who speak in this way need to acknowledge the callous immorality involved in their fomenting of this catastrophe, their contempt for the rule of law and unwillingness to actually do anything to ameliorate the problem. Liberals who treat their ideas about social justice as the sum total of Judaism are more than tone deaf to the irony of De Santis’s ploy or to their own hypocrisy. They are also blind to the injustice that their advocacy has enabled.

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