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The Morning Dispatch: Border States Send Migrants North
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The Morning Dispatch: Border States Send Migrants North

Plus: Introducing Kevin D. Williamson, our new national correspondent.

Happy Monday! There was a late-night talent show at the Dispatch staff retreat over the weekend, and during said late-night talent show, Declan captured a video of Steve attempting a cartwheel. If anything about last night’s Bears v. Packers game is added to this newsletter by the morning editors, the video will be released to the public.

[Editor: We’ll just leave it to a quote from NBC’s Mike Tirico:  “Aaron Rodgers beats the Bears. What else is new?”]

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in an address last week that, shortly after Russian forces retreated from the area in eastern Ukraine they had occupied for months, Ukrainian investigators discovered mass burial sites near Izyum similar to the ones discovered in Bucha earlier this year. Ukrainian police began exhuming hundreds of bodies—up to 450 people—from hundreds of unmarked graves.

  • President Joe Biden sat down for an interview with “60 Minutes” that aired Sunday on CBS, telling Scott Pelley he will wait until after November’s midterms to decide whether to run for re-election in 2024. “Is it a firm decision that I run again?” the president said. “That remains to be seen.” Biden also declared the COVID-19 pandemic “over,” and vowed U.S. forces would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion. White House officials later walked back Biden’s Taiwan remarks once again, saying the United States’ policy of “strategic ambiguity” toward the island has not changed.

  • Nearly 1.5 million people in Puerto Rico remained without power Sunday night after heavy rains and high winds associated with Hurricane Fiona whipped through the island. President Biden approved an emergency declaration yesterday, unlocking additional funding for disaster relief. There have thus far been no confirmed casualties, but that could change as the storm abates.

  • Sarah Huckabee Sanders—former White House press secretary and the Republican gubernatorial nominee in Arkansas—announced Friday she recently underwent surgery to remove her thyroid and surrounding lymph nodes after a routine screening last month detected a Stage I papillary thyroid carcinoma. Sanders said she is now cancer-free and will return to the campaign trail “soon.”

Introducing Our New National Correspondent

We’ve written to you in recent weeks about some big things coming down the pike here at The Dispatch

  • Our post-election What’s Next conference will feature Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, former Reps. Will Hurd and Trey Gowdy, and many more yet-to-be-announced speakers.

  • We’re kicking off our regional events series for members, starting this Thursday at Party Fowl in Franklin, Tennessee. (We’re offering three-month free trials to anyone who attends as a guest of a member, and an hour-and-a-half of beer, wine and heavy apps!)

  • We’re departing Substack in the coming weeks to launch our own website. We hope the changes should be virtually imperceptible on your end, but the switch will allow us to improve the member experience and continue to grow The Dispatch community.

  • Nick Catoggio—née “Allahpundit”—is dropping his pseudonym and getting his own newsletter at The Dispatch. The first edition will be out later this week, and we’ll have more information about how to sign up then.

Well, the hits keep on coming.

As of today, The Dispatch officially has a national correspondent—and you might have heard of him. We’re thrilled to welcome Kevin D. Williamson aboard our ever-growing pirate skiff, where he’ll be the author of the weekly Wanderland newsletter and a regular contributor to our website. We’ll let Kevin fill you in on what to expect in the coming days, but we’re authorized to disclose that his work will include, among other things, accessible coverage of economics and a renewed focus on reporting.

Kevin is a native of Lubbock, Texas, and he joins us from National Review, where he served for years as a roving correspondent, writing on politics, culture, language, economics, and much, much more. He’s the author of several books, and has extensive experience in local journalism, serving as editor-in-chief of three newspapers and the founding editor of the Philadelphia Bulletin.

We’re beyond excited to have Kevin as a colleague, and we know you’re going to love his contributions to the community we’re building. We’ll be in touch soon with more details on signing up for all his editorial offerings, but for now, give him a big TMD welcome in the comments! And if you know anyone who’d like to join us, here’s a 30-day free trial for them, in honor of our latest addition. Please share widely! 

Bringing the Border North

(Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images.)

Last Thursday morning, several dozen mostly Venezuelan migrants piled off buses outside the Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C.—Vice President Kamala Harris’ residence. They’d gotten a ride up from the southern border courtesy of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, and were just the latest of more than 8,500 to arrive in the capital.

Since April, Texas has sent more than 11,000 people to Washington, D.C., New York City, and Chicago. Many entered the country illegally and were apprehended or turned themselves in to border officials to make an asylum claim—a backlogged process that can take years, during which time they’re free to move about the country. Currently, towns and cities near the border disproportionately bear the cost of helping these migrants start lives in the U.S. Abbott says the program—which so far has cost Texas more than $12 million—is meant to relieve the pressure on those border communities and to push the Biden administration to prevent border crossings. Previously, Texas-chartered buses had unloaded within sight of the U.S. Capitol—the new destination of Harris’ house seems calculated to retaliate for her recent claim that the border is secure. The U.S. Border Patrol is nearing a record 2 million migrant encounters at the southern border this fiscal year. 

Abbott is also trying to score political points, trying to prove that liberal mayors are hypocrites when they claim to welcome immigration. “[NYC Mayor Eric] Adams likes to pat himself on the back for welcoming migrants with open arms to his sanctuary city,” Abbott wrote in a New York Post editorial. “That is, until he actually has to follow through on those lofty promises.” For Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot: “Lightfoot loves to tout the responsibility of her city to welcome all regardless of legal status, and I look forward to seeing this responsibility in action as these migrants receive resources from a sanctuary city with the capacity to serve them.”

Officials elsewhere are taking notes. Democrat-led El Paso, Texas, has moved more than 500 migrants away from the city and plans to spend up to $2 million in the next 16 months on the project. Since May, Arizona has spent about $3 million to send migrants to Washington, D.C. And Florida last week chartered two planes to fly about 50 mostly Venezuelan migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said state officials identified migrants in Texas who planned to head to Florida but signed release forms agreeing to go instead to Massachusetts.

But some migrants on the flights told reporters they thought they were headed to Boston or had been falsely promised by people seemingly associated with Florida’s program that they would receive English lessons and work permits, which raises concerns about the legality of the flights. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre compared these reports to “smuggler tactics” in Central America. The migrants sent to Martha’s Vineyard have been transferred to Joint Base Cape Cod where they’ll receive food, shelter, and basic healthcare—but when they arrived without warning, the island’s Chamber of Commerce described the situation as a “humanitarian crisis.”  

“If there is a humanitarian crisis in Martha’s Vineyard, wouldn’t it stand to reason there is a drastically more significant humanitarian crisis at the Southwest border?” House Republicans on the Homeland Security Committee tweeted Friday. Certainly, Martha’s Vineyard got only a taste of what some border towns experience—Del Rio, with a population of under 35,000, saw nearly 50,000 migrant crossings in July alone.

Migrant advocates aren’t fans of officials using immigrants for political grandstanding—and have criticized Texas’ lack of coordination with charities preparing to receive busloads—but also acknowledge that the paid-for travel is a boon for some migrants trying to reunite with friends or family in or near these cities. “Abbott is one of the only state actors that is giving immigrants a free benefit, a free ride,” Abel Nuñez, executive director of the Central American Resource Center, told the Texas Tribune. “You’re actually creating a free program that if a Democrat would have said it, he would have gone against it.” Mike Betancourt Vivas, a construction worker from Colombia, told The Washington Post he doesn’t care that the program is a political prop. “It doesn’t matter to me,” he said. “I just want to go.”

Advocates have raised the alarm, though, that the busing disrupts normal immigrant processing and could introduce confusion about mailing addresses and legal appointment locations, derailing migrants’ asylum claims. “Legal service providers are rushing to help, but with caseloads already at capacity from years of increased immigration enforcement and pandemic delays, they are struggling to meet the need,” New York legal aid group Immigrant Advocates Response Collaborative said in a statement. “Without proper legal representation, these individuals are at risk of being deported back to the very places they fled without having the opportunity to make their case for protection to U.S. government agencies.”

So far, while the federal government has provided some funding to charities greeting the migrants, aid groups and cities have taken the lead in receiving the bused migrants. Churches have donated food and clothes and volunteers and aid workers have helped migrants get showers and plan next steps. Cities are getting more organized in their responses—D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser in early September declared the migrant influx a public emergency and pledged $10 million to stand up an Office of Migrant Services and create temporary shelters suited to migrants’ needs. Bowser has twice asked for National Guard support, which the Pentagon has denied. Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced last Wednesday that he would deploy 75 National Guard members to help connect migrants to services. City leaders want more: “The federal government has to step up,” Lightfoot said at a news conference.

Officials running the transport programs hope they’ll generate enough public outcry to force the Biden administration to take a harder stance on immigration. “We’re going to send them to your neighborhood, and we’re going to keep those buses coming until finally, this administration wakes up,” Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick told Fox Saturday.

Worth Your Time

  • For Sports Illustrated, Joseph Bien-Kahn tells the story of Ian Mackay, a man paralyzed in a biking accident 14 years ago who, with the help of family and friends, found a way to return to the trail. “Mackay drives his sip-and-puff-powered chair with a straw that extends from above his right armrest: A hard puff starts him forward, a soft puff turns him to the right and a soft sip sends him left,” Bien-Kahn writes. The method helped Mackay break the world record for most distance covered in 24 hours by a motorized wheelchair. “Much can go wrong on the road—especially for Mackay, even with his mom always trailing in a support van. Those rides are ‘hard, and they’re beautiful, and they’re draining and they’re hysterical,’ Teena says through tears. Mackay wears layer upon layer to keep his body temperature up when it’s cold out. More dangerous, though, is the heat; Mackay’s temperature needs to stay below 102°,” Bien-Kahn notes. “With all this risk, what is Mackay chasing on these adventures? ‘I didn’t get to experience [the rides] before I was injured—but I sure as hell have now,’ he says. ‘Getting to actually live that experience I wanted so bad, and to do it in this unusual, quirky way—it’s freaking awesome, man.’”

  • For the first time in British history, not a single member of the prime minister’s inner circle—the Great Offices of State—is a white man.* Many top progressives in the country aren’t pleased, despite highlighting for years the importance of diverse leadership. “The trouble is that for many of the same people, ethnic and racial diversity count only when combined with a particular point of view,” Pamela Paul writes in her latest New York Times column. “Even before [Liz] Truss’s cabinet was completed, one member of the Labour opposition tweeted, ‘Her cabinet is expected to be diverse, but it will be the most right-wing in living memory, embracing a political agenda that will attack the rights of working people, especially minorities.’ Another Labour representative wrote: ‘It’s not enough to be a Black or ethnic minority politician in this country or a cabinet member. That’s not what representation is about. That’s actually tokenism.’ The implication is that there’s only one way to authentically represent one’s race, ethnicity or sex—otherwise you’re a phony or a pawn. Is that fair? I’m not politically aligned with Truss on most issues. This is not the team I’d choose to lead a country reeling from Co, an energy crisis and the twin disasters of Boris and Brexit. But it’s Truss’s prerogative to hire people with whom she is ideologically aligned and who support her policies.”

Presented Without Comment

Also Presented Without Comment

Toeing the Company Line

  • For more on the latest twist in the immigration debate, be sure to check out the latest episode of The Dispatch Podcast, which Sarah, Steve, Jonah, and David recorded together in-person. Plus: The merits (and politics) of Sen. Lindsey Graham’s proposed 15-week federal abortion ban, and some highlights from The Dispatch’s staff retreat.

  • We previewed his ratings in Friday’s TMD, but Chris Stirewalt’s 2022 Senate forecast is officially live! Check out last week’s Stirewaltisms (🔒) for a look at which ten races he believes to be in play at all, and which six he considers true toss-ups. “Both parties are defending three seats in that group,” he writes, “meaning we could very easily end back at a 50-50 Senate and Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote for the next two years.”

  • With tennis legend Roger Federer announcing his retirement, Alec paid homage to the man he considers the greatest of all time. “For a stretch of about five years in the mid-2000s, Federer played a level of tennis unheard of before and unlikely to come around again,” Alec writes. “He didn’t beat opponents. He baffled them.”

  • “The sooner we in politics see each other as people, not ethnicities,” Chris Stirewalt writes on the site today, “the closer we will be to seeing America as it is, not as it is described by outmoded demography.”

Let Us Know

On the latest Dispatch Podcast, the gang struggled to identify any “good guys” when it comes to those crafting immigration policy in the United States. Do you have similar difficulties?

Correction, September 19, 2022: An earlier version of this newsletter said not a single person of British Prime Minister Liz Truss’ cabinet is a white man. The full cabinet includes some white men, but Truss’ inner circle—the Great Offices of State—does not.

Declan Garvey is the executive editor at the Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2019, he worked in public affairs at Hamilton Place Strategies and market research at Echelon Insights. When Declan is not assigning and editing pieces, he is probably watching a Cubs game, listening to podcasts on 3x speed, or trying a new recipe with his wife.

Esther Eaton is a former deputy editor of The Morning Dispatch.