TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis castigated the Biden administration for what he called “a disaster and an emergency” at the nation's border with Mexico and said Wednesday that he would send law enforcement to Texas and Arizona, whose Republican governors have appealed to other states for help.
DeSantis became the first governor to heed the call from his fellow Republicans, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, to send law officers to the border to help with interdiction efforts to capture those entering the country illegally -- including those working for cartels trafficking illicit drugs to all corners of the country.
“We have problems in Florida that are not organic to Florida, that we’ve been forced to deal with over many years but particularly over the last six months, because of the failure of the Biden administration to secure our southern border and indeed to really do anything constructive about what is going on in the southern border," DeSantis said during a news conference in the state's Panhandle.
Last week, Abbott and Ducey issued a letter seeking help from their fellow governors, claiming that the administration of President Joe Biden “has proven unwilling or unable” to secure the U.S.-Mexico border.
“Border states like Texas and Arizona are ‘ground zero’ for this crisis and bear a disproportionate share of those burdens," their letter said, adding that "additional manpower is needed from any state that can spare it.”
A spokesperson for U.S. Customs and Border Protection said the agency would continue to “leverage our longstanding relationships with state and local enforcement," but deferred to state officials “to speak to any steps they are taking to increase an enforcement posture.”
Republicans have long made border security an issue and had eagerly supported Trump's program to build walls along the nearly 2000-mile (3,220-kilometer) border between the United States and Mexico. The Biden administration has since suspended the project.
“I’m proud to announce today that the state of Florida is answering the call. Florida has your back,” DeSantis said.
But the Florida governor was scant on details, including when the personnel will head to the border — or how many. He said law officers would be sent as part of preexisting mutual aid agreements with other states, which are usually activated in times of emergencies.
DeSantis vowed to send personnel from the Florida Highway Patrol, Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Sheriff’s offices in at least nine Florida counties also are adding to the state’s contingent of law officers. He also mentioned other support, but his office could not immediately provide details.
Last Friday, Abbott announced he would build new barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border and launch an aggressive campaign to arrest migrants.
Both Abbott and DeSantis are up for reelection next year and have not ruled out running for the White House in 2024. Abbott has made immigration a key focus since Biden took office. A few weeks ago, he issued an order that would pull state licenses from more than 50 shelters that house about 4,000 migrant children. The Biden administration has threatened to sue.
Trump announced Tuesday he would visit the border later this month at Abbott's invitation.
Legal experts say the U.S. Supreme Court has made clear that the power to enforce immigration law is in the hands of the federal government.
Large numbers of migrants have been showing up at the border, many turning themselves over to U.S. Border Patrol agents in hopes of staying to fight asylum cases. But the numbers of families and children traveling without their parents crossing into the U.S. have dropped sharply since March and April while the encounters with single adults have remained high.
Overall, there were 180,034 encounters on the Mexican border in May compared with 178,854 a month earlier. Although the numbers are historically high, they are not comparable to previous years because speedy expulsions under pandemic-related powers have translated into people making repeated attempts at crossing.
“America’s border security crisis impacts every state and every American,” DeSantis said in a statement after his press conference. “The Biden Administration ended policies implemented by President Trump that were curbing illegal immigration, securing our border, and keeping Americans safe.”
The governor was flanked by law enforcement personnel across the state and he was joined by the state's attorney general, Ashley Moody, who sued the Biden administration earlier this year after the White House began undoing Trump border policies. Moody asserted that Biden's policies would endanger Floridians by allowing criminals to enter the country.