Ron DeSantis activates National Guard after ‘alarming influx of migrants’ in Florida Keys

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed an 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 municipalities with resources.

The order comes a day after the White House announced that migrants from Cuba, Haiti and Nicaragua who cross the US-Mexico border without legal permission will be immediately deported, following a similar policy for Venezuelans.

Mr DeSantis – who was widely mocked for arranging flights of Venezuelan migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard last fall – said the daily arrivals of migrants have strained 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 about 70 miles from Key West, after they landed by boat last weekend. More than 1,400 migrants have arrived in the area between December 30 and Monday, according to the state.

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

The Biden administration’s newly announced policy will also accept 30,000 people per month from the four affected countries who also have qualified sponsors in the United States and pass background checks.

Florida Democrats criticized the governor’s move, which House Democratic Leader Fentrice Driskell criticized as an attempt by 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 have spent years campaigning for our broken immigration system but never worked toward a real solution,” she said in a statement Friday.

She called on Congress to “provide the resources to strengthen security and enforcement, and finally give us immigration reform.”

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

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

The US Justice Department argues that the federal government is within its authority to implement immigration rules, and accuses Florida officials of forcing it to ask a federal judge to “anticipate discretionary decisions by the Department of Homeland Security about how to enforce immigration laws most effectively and efficiently,” according to the court documents.

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

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