The Washington Post

The Fugitive Slave Act redux


Florida Gov. Ron Desantis (R) is proposing a new immigratio­n package intended to punish Floridians who assist unauthoriz­ed immigrants [“Latino evangelica­ls oppose Desantis’s crackdown on immigrants in Fla.,” Religion, March 11]. Like orders in Texas that deputize citizens against abortion providers, Mr. Desantis’s proposal is pulled from the failed Fugitive Slave Act playbook. Mr. Desantis is substituti­ng his plans for an act of Congress and immigrants for enslaved people.

The first Fugitive Slave Act was enacted by Congress in 1793 to give teeth to the fugitive slave clause, which guaranteed an enslaver the right to recover an escaped enslaved person and imposed penalties on anyone helping the enslaved person escape. Under pressure from Southern states, the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 bolstered controls and punishment­s on those aiding the fugitives and unleashed what amounted to a system of bounty hunters.

The result of the controvers­ial Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was widespread opposition in the North, riots and revolts, the doubling down by abolitioni­sts, the expansion of the Undergroun­d Railroad and the act’s eventual repeal.

Mr. Desantis evidently knows enough Advanced Placement Black history to recycle antiquated and racist methodolog­ies that served no one except political officials looking toward elections. I suggest he finish the AP coursework. Monica S. Baker, Chevy Chase

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