Gov. Ron DeSantis is following up on his promise to send law enforcement officers to the U.S.-Mexico border with a contingent of 50 officers and teased a possible cameo.
The Department of Law Enforcement, Fish and Wildlife and Florida Highway Patrol sent off the first wave of officers to the border. That helps fulfill a request from the Republican governors of Texas and Arizona for individual states to address rising crime at the border.
Last week, DeSantis announced initial plans to respond to those border states’ request, blaming President Joe Biden and his administration’s immigration policies for rising crime. By Friday, he returned to Pensacola to follow through on that announcement.
The Governor noted a rise in human trafficking stemming from south of the border. And rural sheriffs in North Florida have raised the alarm on methamphetamine crossing the border.
“You used to have where people would cook it themselves and all this stuff. That is just not what’s happening,” DeSantis said. “What’s happening is a massive amount of drugs moving in from the southern border, so this has real effects on Florida communities”
Friday’s announcement pins down some details, but there are still unanswered questions. The officers deploy later in the day, in time to start working Monday.
Florida’s 50 officers fulfill a 10th of those states’ call for 500. Idaho Gov. Brad Little and Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts have announced they will send officers, too.
Florida has more law enforcement departments that have volunteered to send officers. They could be used to relieve the current contingent that’s on its way out.
However, DeSantis isn’t sure how much of the burden to deploy officers will fall on Florida’s taxpayers, calling it an ongoing “point of discussion.”
“Typically if someone would help us, you know, we would pick up some of their funding. So that’s how we would hope that it goes, but we don’t anticipate getting any federal federal funds now,” he said.
Still, the Governor defended the need to send state law enforcement hundreds, or even thousands, of miles away.
“They didn’t even hesitate many times anytime we needed help, so we feel it’s the right thing to do just on that,” DeSantis said. “But we also understand that this is an issue that is affecting states like Florida.”
Florida’s rising crime isn’t “organic to Florida,” the Governor said last week, noting that it’s particularly increased in the months since Biden took office.
“This was a crisis created by going against policies that would be working just ’cause you don’t like your predecessor,” DeSantis said.
The move follows a letter from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey sent to the nation’s 48 other governors requesting assistance at the border. The governors of California and New Mexico, the other two border states, are Democrats.
In the past, Florida has sent personnel to California to fight wildfires and to Louisiana for hurricane relief. Other states have assisted Florida in the past.
Vice President Kamala Harris visited Mexico this month on a tour of Latin America targeting corruption, smuggling and trafficking. That’s not enough, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody suggested last week.
“This is what real leadership looks like,” she said, referring to DeSantis’ call to arms. “Leadership is not sending someone down there to beg people not to come.”
Democrats have criticized the Governor’s deployment as a political stunt, made more poignant by his increasing stock as a possible 2024 presidential contender. Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who hopes to challenge him in 2022, called it a “made-up crisis.”
DeSantis said he hopes to see the state’s officers in action.
“Hopefully I’ll be able to get out there at some point and wish them well when they’re on the ground,” he said. “But at a minimum, I wanted to come here and say, you guys going out, thank you for what you’re doing. The people (of) Florida support what you’re doing.”