Newsletter: Ron DeSantis’ immigrant flights are his most troubling acts yet

People wait outside a church.
Immigrants who arrived on flights from Florida and Texas gather outside St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church on Martha’s Vineyard on Sept. 14.
(Ray Ewing / Associated Press)

Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022. Let’s look back at the week in Opinion.

Did you hear the one about the political party whose leaders are caught doing what they wildly accuse their opponents of doing? You know, the Republican nominee who rode to the White House on waves of “but her emails” retorts and “lock her up” chants, but after his presidency faces possible criminal indictment for secreting away government documents and storing classified information in a reckless manner? Or the right-wing cult frothing about Democrats running a human-trafficking ring (and much, much worse), only to see their most admired governors traffic human beings in broad daylight?

That last one is no exaggeration, and it signals a frightening escalation of the right’s war on Latinos, especially undocumented immigrants. In this instance, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis are filling buses and planes with real-life humans and sending them to faraway places ostensibly because those Democratic-run jurisdictions have policies less hostile to immigrants. The busloads of migrants sent from Texas and Arizona to Washington and New York are understandably causing a crisis, just as the governors intended. It’s a crisis all right, and not because these undesirables need to be gotten rid of (as apparently they’re regarded in Texas, Arizona and Florida), but because there is a sudden crush of people in need of help, and that help cannot be delivered quickly enough.


DeSantis’ actions, sending plane loads of migrants to the island of Martha’s Vineyard off Massachusetts, appear to be the worst of the bunch. His office is reportedly not answering questions about how it got the migrants to board those planes, and there is evidence that officials were dishonest about where they were sending these people, likely to coax them onboard. The migrants were reportedly put on the plane with little information besides being told they would have “housing and jobs.” All to own the libs.

And it isn’t working, if the goal of Abbott, Ducey and DeSantis was to show how much the left hates immigrants too. On Martha’s Vineyard, there was an outpouring of support for the unplanned arrivals; churches and homes opened their doors, providing basic essentials like food and rest, and the assurance to these people that they were worth far more than how DeSantis et. al. had treated them.

Reading about this mass relocation (no troubling historical parallels there, right?), I was brought back to Opinion columnist Jean Guerrero’s piece from Monday on the actions President Biden should take to protect immigrants. Now that Republican leaders have shown the ease with which they would manipulate vulnerable people to land political cheap shots, Guerrero’s excoriation of the president to protect these set-upon humans has a lot more urgency:

“We need Dark Brandon at the immigration table, bringing the same zeal to protecting the community that former President Trump brought to damaging it....

“What’s stopping Biden from trying again? Cowardice? Caution? At whose expense? When the Department of Homeland Security issued a regulation to fortify DACA last month, it notably didn’t expand eligibility to include hundreds of thousands of youths who never qualified because they arrived after 2007. Why not fight for youths like Hanna, an undocumented 18-year-old whose last name I can’t use without endangering her existence in a country she’s called home since she was 4? She’s a ‘Dreamer’ too. She told me she feels invisible.”

The view from Martha’s Vineyard: Bob Drogin, a former editor and reporter at The Times, recounts that unusual morning in West Tisbury, one of the handful of towns on the island where migrants were sent Thursday. He says DeSantis’ stunt was a dud: “If DeSantis hoped to spur anti-immigrant sentiment on the Vineyard, he failed. The island has welcomed immigrants for years. More than 12% of the 17,000 full-time residents are foreign born, according to the 2020 census. And for all the breathless reporting that calls the Vineyard a playground of wealthy white folks, it’s an increasingly diverse community. More than 22% of residents are nonwhite.” L.A. Times


California’s giant new batteries kept the lights on during the heatwave. Remember the disastrous blackouts that darkened cities and shut off air conditioners in much of the state during the last heatwave? Neither do I, and for that we can thank California’s investment in renewable energy generation and storage, writes UC San Diego energy researcher Mike Ferry: “During a critical peak the evening of Sept. 5, when the grid was quickly approaching capacity, California’s batteries provided more power — over 3,360 megawatts — than the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, the state’s largest electric generator, which tops out at 2,250. From 5:45 to 8:45 p.m. on that Monday, when the threats of mandatory blackouts were at their greatest, the state’s batteries pumped 2,000 megawatts or more continuously into the grid — a full three hours of grid-saving power. Batteries provided about 4% of supply during the peak demand, which averted rolling blackouts. No electricity grid in history, anywhere in the world, has seen anything like this.” L.A. Times

Poor Meghan Markle can’t catch a break, even during the mourning period for Queen Elizabeth II. The duchess of Sussex and noted resident of Montecito is back in Britain with her husband for the late queen’s funeral, and the reception among Elizabeth’s bereft subjects hasn’t been charitable. Columnist Robin Abcarian says this is all part of a long, racially charged pattern: “In January 2020, less than two years after Harry and Meghan married in a feel-good ceremony beamed to millions around the globe, BuzzFeed published a much-discussed story comparing headlines about Meghan and Kate Middleton, as the Princess of Wales was once known. The hostility toward Meghan was astonishing. From the Daily Mail: ‘Kate tenderly cradles her bump.’ ‘Why can’t Meghan Markle keep her hands off her bump?’” L.A. Times

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It’s endorsement season, and The Times Editorial Board has already posted several ahead of the Nov. 8 vote. Here are some of the recommendations (more are coming), which can all be found at
Proposition 1: Yes
Propositions 26 and 27: No
Proposition 28: Yes
Proposition 29: No
Proposition 31: Yes
Proposition LH (city of Los Angeles): Yes
State attorney general: Rob Bonta
State insurance commissioner: Ricardo Lara
State superintendent of public instruction: Tony Thurmond

Finally, a word about a former colleague and, as he told me whenever our paths crossed, a regular reader of this newsletter: There will never be another newspaper copy editing chief like Henry Fuhrmann. I was devastated to learn that Henry died Wednesday at age 65; his illness was sudden, and I had last interacted with him only months ago. He was well known within journalism but seldom sought much attention outside the profession, content to relentlessly improve our work behind the scenes and let everyone else get the credit. You might not have ever heard of him, but there’s a reason tributes to Henry are pouring in from across journalism. He had a way in casual conversation of providing both encouragement and the most incisive yet constructive criticism, and then throw in some sincere expression of concern about something you said to him years ago regarding your kid (or was it a brother?) that you had forgotten, but not him. Thanks for everything, Henry. L.A. Times

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