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7 Jan, 2023 13:52

Florida governor takes immigration swipe at Biden

Ron DeSantis ordered the National Guard to handle the influx, arguing that the president is dodging responsibility
Florida governor takes immigration swipe at Biden

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis activated the National Guard on Friday, ordering them to respond to a sharp increase in illegal immigration from Cuba. Hundreds of Cubans have come ashore in Florida in recent days, hammering the Sunshine State’s tourism industry.

DeSantis signed an executive order directing the guard to assist state and local law enforcement agencies with processing the migrants already ashore, and to prevent further landings. 

“As the negative impacts of Biden’s lawless immigration policies continue unabated, the burden of the Biden administration’s failure falls on local law enforcement who lack the resources to deal with the crisis,” DeSantis said. “When Biden continues to ignore his legal responsibilities, we will step in to support our communities.”

Hundreds of mostly Cuban migrants have turned up on the Florida Keys in recent days, with 300 coming ashore at Dry Tortugas National Park over the holiday weekend. The influx forced the park to close as the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office – which has only 194 deputies – struggled to deal with the arrivals.

Federal, state, and local law enforcement agents have encountered more than 8,000 migrants off the coast of Florida since August, DeSantis’ office stated. This represents an almost tenfold increase on the 838 intercepted during the entire 2021 fiscal year, according to US Coast Guard figures.

Amid scathing criticism from Republicans, US President Joe Biden announced on Thursday that some migrants from Cuba, Haiti, and Nicaragua who cross the US-Mexico border would be sent back to Mexico. Biden made no explicit reference to migrants arriving in Florida by boat, who cannot be directly returned to Cuba as the US has no diplomatic relations with the communist government in Havana. Those caught at sea, however, can be sent back.

DeSantis is a vocal critic of Biden’s lax immigration policies, and paid last year to have illegal immigrants flown from Texas to the wealthy liberal enclave of Martha’s Vineyard – a stunt several Republican governors have pulled to highlight their dissatisfaction with the record numbers entering their states illegally.

However, DeSantis has to keep politics in mind when dealing with Cuban migrants. Cuban exiles are a huge voting bloc in Florida, and were largely responsible for the governor winning 57% of the Hispanic vote in November. Florida “has a long history of helping refugees, including Cubans and others fleeing communist regimes,” DeSantis’ office said on Friday. “However, this has always involved support from the federal government,” the statement continued, accusing the Biden administration of “failing to provide the resources necessary.”