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DeSantis opens new fight with Biden over immigration

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, considered a potential presidential candidate in 2024, has in the past taken a hard line on immigration policies. | Joe Raedle / Getty Images

TALLAHASSEE – Florida Governor Ron DeSantis stepped up his fight with the Biden administration over immigration on Tuesday, urging Florida agencies to stop helping federal officials relocate migrants.

The Republican governor also called on state law enforcement officials to “audit” large private companies to ensure their workers are legally authorized to work in the United States and urged Florida authorities to stop buses, planes or cars “reasonably suspected” of transporting someone who entered the country illegally from the southern border.

DeSantis’ actions have been linked to a new lawsuit filed by Attorney General Ashley Moody against Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas as well as other senior immigration officials from Biden, who argue that Federal officials flout immigration laws and that Florida is harmed when detained migrants are released and asked to appear at a later date in immigration proceedings – a policy critics call “catch and release.”

“If you look at what’s going on on the southern border, it’s a total disaster,” said DeSantis, who announced his actions at a press conference in Fort Myers. “This is absolutely a crisis… We are the ones affected by this and we have to fight.”

Moody, who like DeSantis is running for re-election next year, also tore Biden apart at Tuesday’s press conference, claiming that “Biden helps and encourages criminal cartels” because of his immigration policies. administration. DeSantis argued that the Biden administration’s policies were “intentional” and “ideological” and designed to reverse the actions of former President Donald Trump.

DeSantis, seen as a potential presidential candidate in 2024, has taken a hard line on immigration policies in the past, including advocating a ban on so-called “sanctuary cities” as well as a somewhat watered-down requirement according to which companies filter employees through an immigration database. DeSantis and Moody both made it to the Texas border this summer as Florida sent 250 law enforcement officers to help local authorities deal with a wave of migrants entering the United States.

Florida Republicans were once cautious about immigration, fearing it could cost them the support of Hispanic voters in the state. But Trump carried the state in 2016, even though he took a tough line on immigration – and his positions were echoed two years later during DeSantis’ election campaign. The question continues to resonate strongly with GOP voters, on whom DeSantis will depend for re-election next year – and in all Republican primaries beyond.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday she was not aware of details of the Florida retrial, but said the Biden administration was open to a “constructive conversation” on immigration laws because the current situation is not “sustainable”. But Psaki also asserted that “we have no open borders” and that it is “not correct” to assert that if someone receives a notice of appearance, he will “stay a long time” in the United States. .

During his press conference, DeSantis also said he was unable to get any information from Washington on the number of migrants resettled in Florida following a wave of people trying to cross the border.

“We have a right to know what’s going on,” DeSantis said.

The measures announced Tuesday mark another flashpoint between the Biden administration and Republicans in Florida. DeSantis has called on Florida to sue federal authorities over restrictions on cruise ships and he and Moody have pledged to challenge any federal vaccine requirements put in place for large employers. DeSantis and Biden have also clashed on several occasions over school mask warrants, and the GOP governor recently sharply criticized the Biden administration for its decision to cut shipments of monoclonal antibody treatments to Florida.

The Florida lawsuit follows Moody’s attempt last spring to challenge immigration temporary enforcement orders put in place by the Biden administration shortly after the president took office.

The March lawsuit argued that the policies could lead to the release of criminals in the state and could force Florida to pay the costs associated with helping those who entered the country illegally. A federal judge dismissed Florida’s request for a preliminary injunction, saying at one point that Florida could not base its lawsuits on the “mere threat” of criminal activity or future costs. This decision has been appealed.

The court challenge announced on Tuesday, which was first reported by Fox News, has been filed in federal court in Pensacola and argues that some of those illegally entering the country and being released are “gang members” and “drug traffickers exploiting the crisis at the border.” . “

The lawsuit also claims Florida is spending tens of millions to incarcerate criminals who entered the country illegally.

DeSantis’ actions prompted a swift comeback from some State Democrats. State Senator Annette Taddeo, a Democrat from Miami, called DeSantis’ announcement a “political position” and said her executive order “further shows the governor’s willingness to fuel hate politics to get the support for his future presidential ambitions ”. Taddeo, whose mother was Colombian, added that “instead of using immigrants as political pawns to score political points with an extremist base in his party, as elected leader, the governor should instead set the tone and the example for our State and our country “.

As part of its increased focus on immigration, DeSantis also announced that it is hiring Larry Keefe, the former US attorney for the Northern District of Florida and former legal partner of Representative Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) “Tsar. of public security ”which would assist the state in its enforcement efforts.

The governor’s decision to order state agencies not to cooperate with federal authorities who relocate migrants is quite the opposite of 2019, when the governor lobbied for a bill banning “sanctuary cities”. At the time, DeSantis praised the law because it called on local authorities to cooperate with immigration authorities.

Taryn Fenske, spokesperson for the governor, said the state did not have to cooperate with the Biden administration because it was “breaking” federal immigration laws.

“Nothing in Florida law obliges the state government or local governments to help the federal government not enforce federal immigration law,” Fenske said in an email. “If the Biden administration begins to faithfully enforce the law, we will gladly support its efforts.”

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