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DeSantis Continues Challenging Biden's Border Security Policy

The Florida Channel

Gov. Ron DeSantis continues to position himself against the Biden administration on the issue of border security.

“Open borders is the Biden administration’s policy,” DeSantis said at a press conference on Tuesday. “The reversal and weakening of our policies have amounted to an open invitation for 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.”

When President Biden took office in January, he immediately reversed a Trump administration policy that forced migrants to wait in Mexico until their asylum claims were processed. Now undocumented immigrants seeking asylum may remain in the U.S. while their cases are pending.

Echoing former President Donald Trump’s claims about immigration, DeSantis has argued undocumented migrants are driving up crime. He also argues their arrival is threatening public health during the COVID-19 pandemic and costing taxpayers.

DeSantis attributes the increase in number of immigrants attempting to cross the border as an example of what he describes as the Biden administration’s lax approach to immigration.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection data shows July had the highest number of encounters at the U.S.-Mexico border since March 2000, with 212,672 attempted crossings. There was also a large spike under the Trump administration in 2019.

“We’ve seen a disaster at the southern border for many, many months,” DeSantis said. “We’d like to see prior policies re-instituted. We’re under no illusion that that will happen.”

DeSantisissued an executive order on Tuesday that prohibits state agencies from helping relocate undocumented immigrants from the southwestern U.S. border to Florida, unless federal or state law allows. It also requires law enforcement agencies to track and report crimes committed by undocumented immigrants. Stat highway patrol officers may also detain any undocumented immigrants that they reasonably suspect are involved in state crimes, especially drug and human trafficking.

Studies using federal data have found significantly lower crime rates among those who come to the U.S. illegally compared to native-born Americans, though many local and state law enforcement agencies don’t track those numbers, according to an analysis from The Annenberg Political Fact Check.

Former U.S. Attorney Larry Keefe is in charge of enforcing the order after DeSantis appointed him public safety czar on Tuesday. Keefe was the lead prosecutor in the state’s northern federal judicial district, representing 23 counties under the Trump administration.

“When I was the United States Attorney, I prosecuted illegal entry cases in North Florida,” said Keefe said during Tuesday’s press conference. “I am now honored to be able to team with our state and local law enforcement partners to protect the entire state of Florida from illegal immigration.”

DeSantis’ executive order also requires state agencies, including the Department of Health and Human Services and the state Department of Children and Families, to track and report data related to undocumented immigrants.

“We want information on the number and identities of everyone who’s been resettled from the southwest border in Florida,” DeSantis said, highlighting the cost of providing social services to undocumented immigrants, including children.

Speaking alongside DeSantis, Attorney General Ashley Moody unveiled a lawsuit against the Biden administration over its border policy. “I don’t care if it is extreme incompetence, if it is radical, liberal policy agenda, no one is above the law,” Moody said. “We’re seeing dramatic effects at our border. It’s an unmitigated crisis.”

Moody’s suit claims the state is spending $100 million to house undocumented immigrants. “While some arriving migrants have legitimate asylum claims, many do not,” the suit reads. “Some are gang members and drug traffickers exploiting the crisis at the border.”

This isn’t the first time DeSantis has gone after Biden on the issue of immigration. DeSantis, a potential 2024 presidential candidate, has sent state law enforcement officers to provide backup along the border. He’s also traveled there to speak out against Biden’s polices alongside Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

Valerie Crowder hosts and produces state and local newscasts during All Things Considered. Her reporting on local government and politics has received state and regional award recognition. She has also contributed stories to NPR newscasts.