Homegrown answer to the migrant crisis

York Dispatch editorial board

Call her the anti-DeSantis.

While Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis wastes millions of taxpayer dollars mistreating migrants for political gain, York’s Deborah Detzel opens her arms to the growing community of migrants hoping to put down roots in our area.

And she does it with very few resources.

As the Dispatch’s Tina Locurto documented this month, Detzel has become a one-woman support system for the region’s 300 or so Haitian families. After discovering the community in her work as coordinator of the New American Welcome Center for the YMCA of the Roses, she immediately rolled up her sleeves, identifying some services for the new residents while providing others herself.

Deborah Detzel (left) checks on a pregnant Haitian mother during English class on Monday, Oct. 3, 2022. Tina Locurto photo.

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Detzel serves as the facilitator of a three-day-a-week English class for the largely non-English speaking population. Other hands-on initiatives have included everything from home repairs to driving pregnant Haitian women to doctor’s appointments to organizing donations of clothing and food.

It’s a substantial and ceaseless series of challenges, but the former educator at the California Polytechnic State University has been equal to it.

Contrast that with Florida’s Republican governor.

DeSantis sees Central American asylum seekers fleeing gang violence and political persecution not as fellow human beings desperate for a better life but as political pawns to be abused for his political grandstanding. He infamously flew 48 Venezuelan migrants to Martha’s Vineyard last month, an escalation in an ongoing campaign that has seen DeSantis and other Republican governors, like Greg Abbott of Texas, bus migrants to liberal strongholds including New York City and Los Angeles.

The migrants arrive unannounced, leaving local officials to scramble to provide shelter and care (and, presumably, the DeSantises and Abbotts of the world to gleefully admire the chaos caused by their handiwork).

It’s a childish and hurtful act that does nothing to address the serious issues surrounding burgeoning numbers of migrants seeking asylum at the United States’ southern border.

That the Martha’s Vineyard flight came just before the politically ambitious DeSantis was to make a pair of campaign appearances for fellow Republicans was one measure of the political nature of the stunt. Even more telling: The migrants weren’t even in Florida. DeSantis arranged to have them flown to the Massachusetts island from a processing center in San Antonio, Texas. That’s quite a stretch — and one that has led to criminal investigations, not to mention three lawsuits and counting.

DeSantis defended the flight, in part, by saying he was attempting to bring attention to immigration concerns. As if we’ve forgotten that Donald Trump rode this issue to the White House six years ago. Or that a bipartisan immigration bill — described by Politico as “the most monumental overhaul of U.S. immigration laws in a generation” — was passed by 68 senators a decade ago, only to be shot down by House Republicans, whose numbers included Florida Congressman Ron DeSantis.

No, the issue is long-standing and well-documented. What’s new are antics like those being employed by DeSantis.

“We need solutions and not theater,” Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, said on CBS’s Face the Nation last month. “The migrants are human beings, and we’ve got to treat them like human beings.”

That’s not being done in Florida (where, ironically, the governor may soon be welcoming battalions of migrants to his state — to assist in post-Hurricane Ian cleanup efforts). But it’s being done in York, thanks to Deborah Detzel and the assistance she’s been able to recruit, including from retired English teacher Judith Titus and 1447 Dental Associates, who have provided free cleanings and oral care.

More help is needed.

To volunteer or donate to programs assisting the local Haitian community, call 717-819-0180. Far better to follow Detzel’s example of attempting to alleviate the discomfort and confusion of migrant populations than DeSantis’s efforts to compound and profit from them.