Reason Roundup

DeSantis and Abbott Are Wrong To Treat Migrants as a Punishment

Plus: How students learn best, insurers drive police reforms, and more...


"We're sending migrants to her backyard to call on the Biden Administration," Texas governor says. Republican politicians are moving migrant asylum seekers around the U.S. with little thought to their needs or well-being, instead using them like pawns in a disgraceful game of political one-upmanship.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott sent two buses of migrants from Texas to nearby the home of Vice President Kamala Harris in Washington, D.C. Meanwhile, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis sent two planes of migrants to Martha's Vineyard, a small island and vacation destination in Massachusetts. The migrants were flown to Martha's Vineyard after being sent from Texas to Florida.

Some of those sent say they were misled about where they were going, Reuters reports. One told Reuters that they had been promised short-term support, work permits, and English lessons. But services in Martha's Vineyard didn't even know they were arriving.

Republican leaders explain that they're making a point about immigration policy and how America needs to secure its borders…as if it's morally acceptable to simply use people at their most vulnerable to make such a point. Abbott, DeSantis, and those cheering them seem to forget these are people, not chess pieces. People who came to America seeking opportunity, protection, and rights—and in return got treated like inanimate objects in bids to score points against political opponents.

"Harris claims our border is 'secure' [and] denies the crisis," Abbott tweeted. "We're sending migrants to her backyard to call on the Biden Administration to do its job [and] secure the border."

If Abbott's assertions don't make it clear enough that this is merely a political stunt, one need only look at the way these operations are going down.

If this were just a matter of resources being spread too thin in border states, facilities being full, or jobs being more abundant elsewhere, leaders in Florida, Texas, and Arizona (which has also been busing migrants to other states) would coordinate with states where they were sending people—or at least give them some advance warning. They would also pick places where migrants could be conveniently received. Instead, they're sending busloads of migrants to these places unannounced, and dropping them off without warning at places like the vice president's house.

"The fact that Fox News, and not the Department of Homeland Security, the city or local NGOs were alerted about a plan to leave migrants, including children, on the side of a busy D.C. street makes clear that this was just a cruel premeditated political stunt," said White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

I know the idea is supposed to be that border states don't know when migrants will arrive, or in what numbers, so this is giving Democratic-controlled locales a taste of that. But border states are nonetheless prepared for migrant arrivals more generally. They have systems in place—and ample federal assistance—in addressing their arrival. It is not the same to simply send buses or planes full of people to places with no expectation that they're coming.

"Carla Bustillos, a volunteer working with NGOs that care for migrants, said the coalition of organizations was waiting for the buses to arrive at Union Station, only to find they had dropped the migrants off outside the Vice President's residency," reports Reuters.

"While we're doing this political show, we have human beings feeling that their suffering is being exploited," Bustillos told Reuters. "They have come to the United States to seek asylum and they have been told to get on these buses and promised that an organization would receive them here, give them food, shelter and a job."

If we just let people who arrive freely connect with employers, communities, and charities instead of jumping through a million legal hoops, many more of them would simply get themselves where they need to go—and go on to contribute to the beautiful pluralism and diversity that makes America great. Having migrants in your community isn't a punishment, something Abbott and DeSantis seem to have lost sight of.


An interesting education study considers whether it's better to group students based on ability (e.g., all gifted students in one class) or to employ "a cross-sectional grouping strategy where equal groups are formed, composed of individuals of varied aptitudes." The researchers were led by University of Rochester neurology professor Chad Heatwole.  "We showed that, mathematically speaking, grouping individuals with similar skill levels maximizes the total learning of all individuals collectively," Heatwole said. "If one puts like-skilled students together, instructors can teach at a level that is not too advanced or trivial for the students and optimize the overall learning of all students collectively regardless of the group."


The real key to reforming police policies? The Washington Post takes a fascinating look at how insurance companies are forcing police reforms:

Where community activists, use-of-force victims and city officials have failed to persuade police departments to change dangerous and sometimes deadly policing practices, insurers are successfully dictating changes to tactics and policies, mostly at small to medium-size departments throughout the nation.

The movement is driven by the increasingly large jury awards and settlements that cities and their insurers are paying in police use-of-force cases, especially since the 2020 deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. Those cases led to settlements of $12 million and $27 million, respectively. Insurance companies are passing the costs — and potential future costs — on to their law enforcement clients….

Departments with a long history of large civil rights settlements have seen their insurance rates shoot up by 200 to 400 percent over the past three years, according to insurance industry and police experts.

Even departments with few problems are experiencing rate increases of 30 to 100 percent. Now, insurers also are telling departments that they must change the way they police.


• California Gov. Gavin Newsom is taking out billboard ads in states with restrictive abortion laws, telling them how to get an abortion in California. (We've been here before, and it's led to some interesting First Amendment battles.)

• "This week's unexpected rise in US inflation is an opportunity to revisit an old debate," writes Tyler Cowen. "After the 2008-2009 recession, the recovery in the labor market was notoriously slow. This was commonly blamed on the demand side; monetary and fiscal policy could have done more, it was said, to stimulate recovery. A less popular view — but one that looks correct in retrospect — is that both the demand and supply sides were at fault."

• What gray floors tell us about American homeownership.