Independent: Ron DeSantis activates national guard after ‘alarming influx of migrants’ in Florida Keys

The Republican governor and potential 2024 candidate condemns Biden’s “lawless immigration policies”

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has signed an executive order to activate the state’s national guard to respond to what his office called an “alarming influx” of migrants fleeing Cuba and other Caribbean nations.

His order also directs state law enforcement agencies to support local governments responding to what Mr DeSantis called President Joe Biden’s “lawless immigration policies” that “continue unabated” and overburden resource-strapped municipalities.

The order comes one day after the White House announced that migrants from Cuba, Haiti and Nicaragua who cross the US-Mexico border with out legal permission will be immediately expelled, following a similar policy for Venezuelans.

Mr DeSantis – who was widely derided for arranging flights of Venezuelan migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard last fall – said that daily arrivals of migrants have stressed law enforcement resources in the Florida Keys, where the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office has 194 deputies.

Federal, state and local law enforcement have encountered more than 8,000 migrants off the coast of Florida since August 2022, according to the governor’s office.

Law enforcement agents have removed 400 people from Dry Tortugas National Park, an area roughly 70 miles from Key West, after they landed by boat last weekend. More than 1,400 migrants have arrived in the area between 30 December and Monday, according to the state.

In response, the governor’s office will direct “air assets, including airplanes and helicopters from the Florida National Guard, and will bolster Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission marine patrol to support water interdictions and ensure the safety of migrants attempting to reach Florida through the Florida Straits,” according to the governor’s announcement on 6 January.

The Biden administration’s recently announced policy also will accept 30,000 people per month from the four impacted countries who have eligible sponsors in the US and pass background checks.

Florida Democrats slammed the governor’s measure, which House Democratic leader Fentrice Driskell criticised as an attempt by Mr DeSantis to raise his own national profile.

“His press release mentioned President Biden’s name five times but never mentioned the hardliners in Congress who’ve spent years campaigning on our broken immigration system but never working towards a real solution,” she said in a statement on Friday.

She urged Congress to “provide the resources to strengthen safety and enforcement, and to finally give us immigration reform.”

“For a man who so obviously wants to migrate from Florida to the White House, Ron DeSantis certainly has little empathy for migrants trying to find a better life,” she added.

Mr DeSantis’s order also comes just days before his administration heads into a federal trial against the White House following a 2021 lawsuit challenging the Biden administration’s immigration policies.

The US Department of Justice contends that the federal government is within its authority to implement immigration rules, accusing Florida officials of forcing to ask a federal judge to “second-guess discretionary decisions by the Department of Homeland Security about how to enforce immigration law most effectively and efficiently,” according to court filings.

“This court should decline Florida’s invitation to undermine the principles of federalism and separation of powers upon which the US constitutional system is based,” the Justice Department’s October filing stated.

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