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Migrants gather with their belongings outside St. Andrews Episcopal Church, in Edgartown, Mass., on Sept. 14.Ray Ewing/Vineyard Gazette/The Associated Press

Even by the disgustingly low standards U.S. Republicans are setting for themselves these days, it was shocking in its vicious mean-spiritedness.

About 50 migrants who had entered the country illegally and were being detained at a shelter in Texas, were approached last week by a woman offering them a plane ride to Boston, where they would be given a place to stay and work. They were told their application for a work visa would be expedited.

It was a cruel lie.

The migrants who got on the plane were eventually off-loaded at Martha’s Vineyard, the resort island off the coast of Massachusetts inhabited mostly by wealthy, progressive types. The brainchild of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, the stunt was designed to rub America’s migrant problem in the face of Democratic states and associated locales.

Mr. DeSantis expected the denizens of Martha’s Vineyard to be appalled at the sight of migrants touching down in their neighbourhood. As Jennifer Rubin suggested in the Washington Post, “sending migrants to ‘liberal elites’ attempts to use non-white human beings as ‘punishment.’” And that is dehumanizing and racist.

Thankfully, it didn’t work out the way Mr. DeSantis imagined it. The migrants were treated with dignity and compassion by the folks at Martha’s Vineyard. Eventually, the group was moved to a military base at Cape Cod, which was better equipped to deal with their needs.

Not long after word of what happened got out, former U.S. President Donald Trump claimed Mr. DeSantis had stolen the idea from him. That’s entirely plausible. Mr. DeSantis is a Trump acolyte and is positioning himself for a run for the Republican presidential nomination if his political hero decides not to seek it again. It’s possible he heard Mr. Trump once muse about the idea but didn’t believe he had proprietary ownership over the plan.

It doesn’t really matter in the end. It was a heartless thing to do, even for a renowned bully like Mr. DeSantis.

The fact that Republicans have jumped on immigration as an issue is no accident. It was a key plank in Mr. Trump’s successful bid for the White House in 2016. “Build the Wall,” resonated with tens of millions of Americans. Well, the problem hasn’t really gone away since, despite Mr. Trump’s wall being in place (although a pretty leaky edifice it is). In fact, the immigration situation may be worse than ever, handing Republicans a promising issue ahead of the pivotal midterm elections in November.

The fact is, migrants, mostly from Venezuela, are pouring into the U.S. at almost record levels. According to Axios, an average of 8,500 migrants are entering the U.S. illegally every day. U.S. Customs and Border Protection report a 250 per cent increase in migrant encounters around Yuma, Ariz., alone. Texas and Arizona, both run by Republican governors, are bearing the brunt of the illegal migrant activity.

Republicans, in general, believe that U.S. President Joe Biden isn’t doing enough to deal with the issue. He’s pawned the problem off on his vice-president, Kamala Harris, who has done an extremely poor job of dealing with this matter. If anything, the problem has only become worse on her watch. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has sent migrants in buses to Ms. Harris’s Washington residence at the Naval Observatory.

He has also shipped migrants off in buses to destinations like New York City. This has put so much pressure on the shelter system there that new Mayor Eric Adams has been talking out loud about a humanitarian crisis and the need to possibly house the waves of new migrants arriving in town on cruise ships.

Yes, cruise ships.

You can imagine how that would go down in middle America; illegal immigrants being housed on cruise liners. Donald Trump might be able to get re-elected on that one issue alone.

The idea of the Republicans approaching this matter with any degree of empathy is preposterous. No, the party and its adherents wear their cruelty as a badge of honour now. The abortion bans now in place in several Republican-held states are just one example of the mercilessness they are becoming known for.

This is too bad, because the migrant issue Mr. DeSantis and others have highlighted with their callous antics is a legitimate concern that needs special attention. The fact is, the U.S., like many countries, is in desperate need of people to fill hundreds of thousands of vacancies in the hospitality and food service industry among others. Migrants could fill a much-needed role.

Ugly political stunts aren’t going to solve America’s immigration problem. It’s going to take something that’s much harder to find – bipartisan co-operation. I don’t like the odds of a solution being found anytime soon.

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