Gov. Ron DeSantis and Attorney General Ashley Moody appear during a news conference in Fort Myers on Sept. 28, 2021. Source: Screenshot/governor’s Facebook page
Gov. Ron DeSantis and Attorney General Ashley Moody unloaded an attack Tuesday on the Biden administration’s border policies, filing a lawsuit seeking to block release of asylum seekers into the broader U.S. population.
The governor also signed an executive order preventing state agencies from cooperating with any federal attempt to settle asylum seekers in Florida pending adjudication of their claims, and appointed Larry Keefe, former U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Florida, as a new state “public safety czar.”
DeSantis and Moody are both Republicans up for reelection next year, and DeSantis is a possible presidential candidate for 2024. They also have been strong supporters of former President Donald Trump and seek a return to Trump administration policies including expulsion of asylum seekers as a public health risk because of COVID-19.
“The reversal and weakening of our policies have amounted to an open invitation to folks all across the world to just simply come through the southern border illegally and basically get a ticket to ride to the interior of the country,” DeSantis said during a news conference.
“The government is not free to ignore the clear commands of Congress,” Moody asserts in her lawsuit, filed in the Pensacola division of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida.
“It has claimed that it lacks the resources and detention capacity to process the surge of migrants arriving at the border. But the Biden administration has actively sought to eliminate measures that increase its resources and detention capacity, such as the Migrant Protection Protocols (also known as the “wait in Mexico policy”), and has even asked Congress to reduce the number of immigration detention beds available to it,” the complaint alleges.
“Further, it is the Biden administration’s misguided policies that have encouraged more migrants to make the dangerous journey to the United States. The government cannot, therefore, use a purported lack of resources as an excuse to ignore congressional mandates.”
The lawsuit targets the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas; the agency’s constituent services (Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) and their leaders; and the federal government itself.
Annette Tadeo, a state senator considering entering the Democratic primary to take on DeSantis next year, decried the executive order. “Putting aside the fact that Florida is not a border state,” she said in a written statement, it “further shows this governor’s willingness to fuel the politics of hate to gain support for his future presidential ambitions.”
Taddeo noted that her grandparents immigrated from Italy and her mother came from Colombia.
“Instead of using immigrants as political pawns to score political points with an extremist base of his party, as an elected leader, the governor should instead set a tone and example for our state and our country. The governor’s actions and the words used matter and his latest political posturing will negatively affect our state,” Taddeo said.
Anna Eskamani, a Democratic state House member with parents from Iran, also accused the governor of catering to anti-immigrant sentiments.
“Whatever Gov. Ron DeSantis can do to demonize immigrants he will do. This is another gross attempt to distract the public, pursue national conservative headlines and negatively impact the lives of already marginalized people,” she said in her own written statement.
“It also ignores the reality that Florida is facing a major workforce crisis and talent gap — this is not only due to low wages, but also connected to our greater need for national immigration reform. Instead of attacking the Biden administration and exploiting the immigrant experience Gov. DeSantis should offer solutions to meet the needs of our economy while upholding our values as a nation of immigrants.”
In fact, President Joe Biden has been drawing harsh criticism for enforcement efforts against Haitian refugees who have massed on the southwestern border. White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said recently that asylum seekers deemed nondeportable are released only after agents collect “fingerprints, photos, phone numbers, and an address in the United States, and also run a background check.”
“And those who do not report, like anyone who’s in our country without legal status, are subject to removal by ICE,” Psaki said.
According to a press release from the governor’s office, Keefe’s job is to enforce DeSantis’ executive order, which bars state agencies from offering “support or resources to, or in any way assist[ing] the federal government in moving “any aliens apprehended at the Southwest Border who do not have lawful status under the immigration laws of the United States” to Florida.
It requires state agencies to vet applicants through the federal Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements program, a means of identifying undocumented immigrants. Furthermore, the order requires the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to attempt to learn the identities of aliens transported here, their sponsors, and their status.
The state will review operating licenses for facilities housing unaccompanied minors. State agents could detain any airplane, bus, or other vehicle “reasonably believed to be transporting illegal aliens to Florida from the Southwest Border.”
The order also directs state agencies to report on the number of such aliens receiving state services. Business would face audits to test their compliance with citizenship or legal alien requirements for employees.
DeSantis and Moody complained that the immigrants include drug and human traffickers and sex offenders.
“It is clear that, at this point, this administration, President Biden, is aiding and abetting criminal cartels. Their criminal activity is only spiraling out of control because we are not following law and processing folks, collecting the necessary details needed to collect, and detaining them according to federal law before releasing them,” Moody said during the news conference.
DeSantis pointed to an August ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court ordering the Biden administration to reinstate a Trump-era policy requiring asylum seekers to remain in Mexico pending resolution of their cases.
In addition, Moody filed a separate lawsuit in March alleging the Biden administration was releasing criminal aliens into the general population.
DeSantis and Moody traveled to the Texas-Mexico border in July to highlight the immigration issue, after the governor sent state police officers to help patrol the border.
Immigrants told those officers: “We would never have come prior to Biden. Like, Biden’s telling us to come,” the governor said.
“This is a magnet where they have basically engineered this to happen,” he said. “Part of it was they just wanted to reverse Trump. Part of it, I think, this was absolutely intentional.”
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