Migrants stuck in freezing cold and political dilemma amid partisan stunts of US politicians
Published: Dec 26, 2022 08:02 PM
US Vice President Kamala Harris. Photo:AFP

US Vice President Kamala Harris. Photo:AFP

For a country long suffering from partisan political rift on migration issue, the US is celebrating Christmas with a new dilemma. Washington is stuck on a tightrope over migrants and doesn't know which way to go: On the one end is "the most secure border in our history" that former president Donald Trump boasted of, a situation achieved at the expense of human rights of migrants, and on the other is the greater chaos the Joe Biden administration is likely to face due to a surge of migrants.

Several buses filled with over a hundred migrants arrived near Vice President Kamala Harris' home in Washington, DC, on Saturday evening local time - one of the coldest Christmas Eves on record, in the nation's capital. The buses were reportedly sent by the Texas Division of Emergency Management, which follows instructions from Texas Governor Greg Abbott's office.

It's not the first time Abbott and some other Republican governors have done similar stunts: Months ago before the midterm elections, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Arizona Governor Doug Ducey transported migrants to regions run by Democrats by buses or even on planes.

In response to Abbott's actions, more Democrat politicians blistered the Texan politician on Twitter, calling him "heartless" and saying dropping off migrants in below-freezing temperatures is "so cruel that it ought to be criminal." In a statement on Christmas Day, the White House also condemned Abbott's "cruel, dangerous and shameful stunt."

But Democrats aren't doing anything more to stop such a tragedy other than simple criticism. It seems that none of the Democratic politicians are willing to genuinely welcome migrants into their homes. In fact, the migration reform that the Democratic Party mainly pushes for has hardly made any progress. And while the Democrats are about to lose their majority in the new House of Representatives, the Biden administration will face an even greater challenge from Republicans on the issue of migrants. Thus, it is reasonable to believe that the promised migration reforms will end up being just more lip service as difficulties mount.

Although this year's midterm elections are over, the US is not far away from the elections in 2024. Many politicians from both parties are now making a big deal out of the migration issue to gain attention and earn more votes.

For example, playing the migration card in a high-profile, dramatic and provocative way is a typical election strategy for the Republican Party. It aims to persuade Republican supporters and even floating voters that the seemingly looser migration policies of the Biden administration are hypocritical and against the will of Americans. The Democrats, at the same time, attack their rivals using the topic and shouting empty slogans about so-called liberal and democratic values.

Political showmanship over the migration issue has intensified in the US following Trump. The Republican Party used to urge the country to build a wall at the borders, and now it transports migrants around as if they are some kind of unwanted items. The Democratic Party is no better - it also uses migration as a card in its political game with the GOP, making promises it apparently can't keep. 

The two parties have been engaging in endless haggling and shifting of responsibility over the migration issue for decades. It is almost impossible to carry out  migration reform in the US due to structural contradictions. In a country where its politics generally revolves around elections, a political party has to serve the interests of its core voters - for the GOP, it would mainly be white conservatives, and for the Democratic Party - liberal minorities. As a result, all these two parties do is debate and fight without actually solving the problems.

In the eyes of some American politicians, the migration issue is a voter-attracting banner in the elections, a weapon to attack their political opponents in partisan conflicts, and props to help build their image for political posturing. They never truly care about the migrants. 

The political grandstanding has stolen the due limelight of solving the actual problem. This is entirely unfair to the migrants who suffer from the crisis and need attention to improve their situation. It is ironic to see politicians from a country that was built and prospered with the help of countless migrants regard the latter simply as a tool to advance their political interests. And since the US shines so brightly as a "beacon," it is clear that its indifference toward migrants has set a bad example for other countries around the world with huge migrant populations.

The article was compiled by the Global Times based on an interview with Zhang Wenzong, deputy director and research professor of the Institute of American Studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn