TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Governor DeSantis signed an executive order Friday to activate the Florida National Guard and support local governments responding to the migrant landing in the Florida Keys.
DeSantis said the executive order would provide resources and direct state agencies to the Florida Keys to help support the local government efforts in responding to the migrant landings and preventing future landings.
Recent images from U.S. Border Patrol’s Miami sector and the Homeland Security Task Force Southeast Division, reveal a glimpse into the latest deluge of migrant landings in Florida.
The migrants’ arrivals, often on dangerous, rickety boats, are happening almost daily, even multiple times a day along the Florida Keys. The Keys, which is a 180-mile stretch of islands in the Florida Straits, is the southernmost point of the U.S., and frequent maritime border entry for Haitians and Cubans who enter the country illegally because of its proximity to the Caribbean islands.
“This is crazy, this is out of control and we can’t sustain it,” Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay told us about a month ago while describing the historic surge in landings to the area. According to U.S. Border Patrol, the number of migrant landings in Florida has soared more than 400% from a year ago.
Sheriff Ramsay has described the surge as a mass migration crisis and said the frequency and volume of the events are exhausting local resources. His deputies are often called to help before migrants are taken into federal custody.
Earlier this week, Dry Tortugas National Park closed after over 300 migrants landed. According to Customs and Border Patrol, the number of landings increased by more than 400% between Oct. 2021 and Oct. 2022.
Sheriff Ramsay issued a statement expressing frustration and pointing blame at the federal government for its “lack of a working plan to deal with a mass migration issue that was foreseeable,” the Sheriff said.
DeSantis said the state of Florida will deploy air assets from the Florida National Guard, as well as Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission marine patrol to support water interceptions.
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Lawmakers who represent the area are also responding to the influx.
“I believe in the rule of law. I'd like to see these people come in, though, in a way that my family came here from Cuba,” explained FL Senator Ana Rodriguez whose district includes Monroe County.
Representative Jim Mooney, who also represents Monroe County, explained why this influx is different.
“We’ve never had a problem with landings. It’s just the magnitude of the landings and the stretching of resources,” he said.
“When resources are on the shore, and somebody's having a heart attack, and all the ambulances are somewhere else. This is a bad thing. So we need some help,” explained Mooney.
But up until late Friday afternoon, noticeably absent from the week’s headlines about Florida’s migrant landing surge was Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. The Governor has made stopping illegal immigration into the state a top priority. He also hasn’t been shy about injecting himself into the national immigration debate, even when it involves migrants in other states.
Back in September, Governor DeSantis took credit for funding and organizing two controversial private flights that transported nearly 50 asylum-seeking migrants in Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, calling it a response to Biden’s border crisis.
“If Biden would just do his damn job,” the Governor said at the time.
On Thursday, one day before the Governor issued a press release announcing he’s activating the National Guard and directing state agencies to provide additional resources to the Florida Keys, we asked Representative Mooney what, if any, communication the Governor has had with him and local leaders in the area about the latest surge.
“Not with me directly. It's not to say he [Governor] hasn't been in touch with local officials in the Keys. But I don't know. I did send a text to the staff today letting the Governor know that it's escalating at this point,” Mooney told us Thursday afternoon.
When asked about any communication the Governor had with Sheriff Ramsay over the week, a Sheriff’s spokesperson on Thursday didn’t respond.
Thursday evening, after multiple requests to the Governor’s office for a response to the surge, spokesperson Bryan Griffin sent us a statement that read:
“We are aware of this situation and presently working on it. The Governor is committed to acting within his power to shield Florida from the disastrous effects of President Biden’s abdication of his responsibility to secure our nation’s borders. Please stay tuned.”
By week’s end, the Governor responded with a new executive order activating state resources but not without getting another jab in against the Biden Administration.
“When Biden continues to ignore his legal responsibilities, we will step in to support our communities,” the Governor stated in a press release.
On Thursday, President Biden announced changes to the nation’s immigration policy that includes turning away Cuban, Haitian and Nicaraguan migrants who enter the United States illegally at the Mexican border. Neither the Customs & Border Patrol or the U.S. Department of Homeland Security have responded to our questions if or how those policy changes impact migrants who enter through Florida’s maritime borders.