Immigration Will Be at the Center of the U.S. Presidential Election

Immigration Will Be at the Center of the U.S. Presidential Election
Then-U.S. President Donald Trump looks on as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a rally, in Sunrise, Fla., Nov. 27, 2019 (Sipa photo by Paul Hennessy via AP Images).

Earlier this week, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis officially threw his hat into the ring for next year’s U.S. presidential election. Unfortunately for DeSantis, his announcement made news more for the technical difficulties that botched his campaign’s formal launch than for anything he said during it: The Elon Musk-hosted Twitter Spaces—essentially a publicly accessible conference call—that he used to declare his candidacy initially crashed, only to restart 20 minutes later with roughly a third as many participants.

The fiasco served as a metaphor for DeSantis’ faltering efforts to fashion himself into a credible challenger to former President Donald Trump for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination. But over the past year, as DeSantis’ strategy has come into sharper focus, it has made one thing perfectly clear: The migration crisis on the United States’ southern border will figure centrally in the campaign, likely driving a bidding war to see who can take the toughest, most inflammatory position on U.S. refugee and asylum policy.

DeSantis was relatively staid in his remarks about immigration this week, saying only that he would “shut the border down” and that those who are applying for asylum there “overwhelmingly are economic migrants.” But last year, in a publicity stunt meant to highlight liberals’ supposed hypocrisy on the issue, he used state funds—and false promises of work and shelter—to fly almost 50 asylum-seekers from Texas, where they were awaiting the processing of their claims, to Martha’s Vineyard, an island in Massachusetts known for being a vacation destination for progressives. Since then, he has continued to paint himself as someone who is as tough on migration as Trump, but more able to get results.

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