Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (left), Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (center), and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (right)

Their Ivy League degrees notwithstanding, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz are remarkably stupid people when it comes to their pet issue to pander on, immigration.

How else to characterize their churlish glee over last week’s stunt in which DeSantis and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott apparently collaborated on the airlift under false pretenses of two planeloads of Venezuelan migrants to the tarmac at Martha’s Vineyard airport, where they were dumped?

To DeSantis, this pathetic display of cruelty to asylum-seekers here legally with no apparent criminal backgrounds among them was a move to “insulate the state of Florida.” For Cruz, it was of a piece with a bill he filed last year that would have designated the Vineyard, Nantucket and other places where, per his recent tweet, “Dem elites hold cocktail parties” (as if Cruz doesn’t spend tons of time hobnobbing with wealthy right-wing elites in search of funding for his pitiful ambitions).

This boob bait was eagerly gobbled up by the usual suspects, and DeSantis bragged about it with the self-satisfied smirk of a tot who finally made it the potty on time. Still, the gambit has as much chance of affecting the upcoming midterm election as the Trump-fueled 2018 fearmongering about migrant “caravans” headed for the US. Xenophobia flopped with swing voters then (remember how Trump and Fox News stopped talking about caravans immediately after election day?) and it will again.

Just ask John Silber, the late Boston University president who famously came close to getting elected Governor of Masschusetts in 1990. He emerged from academic obscurity to win the Democratic nomination on the strength of the “Silber Shockers,” a string of politically-incorrect comments that presaged Trump’s tactics, including this gem from January 1990: ”Why has Massachusetts suddenly become so popular for people who are accustomed to living in the tropical climate? Amazing. There has got to be a welfare magnet going on here and right now I am making a study to find out precisely what that magnet is…. Why should Lowell be the Cambodian capital of America?”

It’s a good guess that the “magnet” was the chance get a foothold (with the help in many cases of welfare benefits, oh, the horror!) in a country with economic opportunity, free from the threat of violence in their homelands. Just like DeSantis’s Venezuelan playtoys.

And while we never saw Silber’s alleged study, we do have the results of 2019 research on the impact of immigration on Lowell conducted by the Michael Bloomberg-founded New American Economy Research Fund. “Immigrants play a major role in Lowell’s key industries that are vital to the economic stability of Lowell, representing 44.4% of science, technology, engineering and math workers, 47 percent of construction workers, and 32.7 percent of healthcare workers,” the study found.

No one claims today’s immigration system works well or is without problems, and it’s definitely not optimal to have thousands of migrants sleeping in the streets of El Paso. But voters who understand the crucial role honest, hard-working immigrants – documented or not – play in their lives also know what DeSantis, Cruz, Abbot and company are: sleazebags, demonizing the innocent to incite and amuse the dim bulbs and racists they hope to exploit for political gain.

Join me every Tuesday for more analysis of local politics and policy right here on MASSterList.

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Jon Keller has been reporting and commenting on local politics since 1978. A graduate of Brandeis University, he worked in radio as a producer and talk-show host before moving into print journalism at The Tab newspapers and the Boston Phoenix. Freelance credits include the Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal, Boston Magazine, the New Republic and the Washington Post. Since 1991 his "Keller At Large" commentaries and interviews have been a fixture on Boston TV, first on WLVI-TV and, since 2005, on WBZ-TV. He is a 12-time Emmy Award winner for political reporting and commentary. He began his Massterlist column in March 2020.