DeSantis calls up National Guard to meet Cuban refugee influx

By: - January 6, 2023 5:26 pm

Key West. Credit: Tore Sætre via Wikimedia Commons

Gov. Ron DeSantis has declared a state of emergency in response to the landing of hundreds of Cuban exiles in the Florida Keys, directing the National Guard to assist local officials in interdicting and caring for the refugees.

DeSantis used the occasion to deliver a rhetorical blast at President Joe Biden and his “lawless immigration policies,” which the governor blames for high numbers of asylum seekers and border crossing by nondocumented migrants.

“I hereby find that the migration of unauthorized aliens to the state of Florida is likely to constitute a major disaster,” DeSantis wrote in his order.

Biden was in El Paso, Texas, on Friday to announce that he’ll continue to use a public-safety law to expel border crossers while allowing up to 30,000 migrants each month from Cuba, Haiti, and Nicaragua who have U.S.-based financial sponsors and have passed a background check to enter the country legally.

The Miami Herald is reporting that some 500 Cubans and 130 Haitians have arrived in South Florida since Christmas, including 45 who landed in Key West on Thursday.

State House Democratic leader Fentrice Driskell of Hillsborough County criticized the governor for laying the blame on Biden while Republicans in Congress have blocked efforts to reform the nation’s immigration laws — and have spent most of the week arguing among themselves about who should serve as U.S. House Speaker.

“While this influx of migrants into South Florida certainly needs to be addressed, DeSantis is making the issue about President Biden in a blatant attempt to raise his own national profile,” Driskell said in a written statement.

“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 continued.

“The Biden administration inherited this problem, they did not cause it.”

According to the governor’s office, federal, state, and local law enforcement have encountered more than 8,000 migrants in waters off the coast of Florida since August.

“The state of Florida will deploy 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,” aides said in a written statement.

“Florida has a long history of helping refugees, including Cubans and others fleeing communist regimes, find support after they arrive in the United States: however, this has always involved support from the federal government and a large, coordinated effort amongst state, federal and local governments,” the statement continued.

The order allows the Division of Emergency Management to marshal state and local resources to respond to the situation.

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Michael Moline
Michael Moline

Michael Moline has covered politics and the legal system for more than 30 years. He is a former managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal and former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal. He began his career covering the Florida Capitol for United Press International. More recently, he wrote for Florida Politics.

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