DeSantis visits the Texas border, where Florida resources are devoted to law enforcement

DEL RIO, Texas – Four years after escaping “terror” in Cuba, crossing 13 borders, a dangerous jungle and finally, the Rio Grande, Gelacio Vera Gonzalez and his wife, Yenedi Monterrey Mena, have touched down on American soil for the first time in the border town of Del Rio, Texas.

They fell to their knees, rolled their eyes and thanked God with tears. Finally, one scorching Saturday afternoon, they had come to a place where they could express what they were thinking.

“It is the only country where we have opportunities, because there we cannot say what we think,” said Gelacio Vera Gonzalez. “We are happy to be here, but we think of the family we left behind and who are still suffering from what we did.”

Junior Sotomayor, a friend who crossed the Rio Grande with them with their arms crossed, said he wanted to go to Miami, where he too has family.

Seconds after touching down on US soil, the three Cubans were apprehended by a group of Texas law enforcement officers who began handing them over to US Customs and Border Patrol. It is not known whether they will be deported.

Just four hours earlier, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Attorney General Ashley Moody and Senate Speaker Wilton Simpson R-Trilby had visited the same location as they were told about 50 Florida law enforcement officials had made it over a 23-day trip to help Texas officers secure the US-Mexico border.

Following the visit, DeSantis and an entourage of state officials held a press conference with Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a colleague Republican, to talk about state efforts to enforce the US border.

The event was emblematic of border politics which has become more mainstream since President Joe Biden, a Democrat, took office. Republicans, even those who don’t live in border states, like DeSantis, have used the issue to strengthen their political base.

Calendar of a fundraising pitch with his visit

For example, the DeSantis political committee, which is positioning itself for re-election in 2022 and is widely suspected of running for the White House, has not shied away from using the Texas mission as a short-term fundraising argument. after the press. the conference was over. He is not yet an officially declared candidate.

“If Joe Biden and Kamala Harris choose to bend to the left base and open their party borders rather than protect our nation, then it is up to the rest of us to do what is necessary to fight against this crisis. That’s why when the governors of Texas and Arizona asked for help, I was the first governor to send in resources, ”the Friends of Ron DeSantis of DeSantis policy committee said in a report. – fundraising email to supporters.

According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection land border encounters in the southwest for fiscal 2021, which includes the end of Trump’s tenure and Biden’s tenure so far, are up from recent years.

While in Texas, DeSantis said Florida law enforcement assisted in the arrests of more than 2,800 undocumented immigrants, including the three Cuban friends who illegally entered the United States on Saturday afternoon. .

“Of the individuals our law enforcement apprehended at the border, over 70% said they ultimately wanted to go to Florida,” DeSantis said at a press conference with Abbott in a hangar at Del Rio Airport, Texas, a border city over 1,000 miles from Florida’s capital, Tallahassee.

If undocumented immigrants eventually make it to Florida, DeSantis said it would be a “strain on public resources, schools, medicine, all of those things” and “a huge impact on communities all over Florida and, I think. , from all over the country ”.

Texas law enforcement officers apprehend three Cubans, Gelacio Vera Gonzalez, Yenedi Monterrey Mena, and Junior Sotomayor, after crossing the Rio Grande into Del Rio, Texas. Sotomayor wants to go to Miami. [ ANA CEBALLOS | Ana Ceballos, Times/Herald ]

DeSantis, who in 2019 enacted a ban on so-called sanctuary cities, of which there were none in Florida, and who in 2020 signed the law requiring some employers to use E-Verify to screen undocumented workers, did not did not mention these policies at the press conference.

But Simpson, who is believed to be considering a candidacy for agriculture commissioner, told the Time / Herald Saturday that these policies are “apparently not” dissuasive after seeing how many undocumented immigrants in Texas are still seeking to travel to Florida.

“I think this is something we need to look at as a state and what kind of resources do we have to deal with this crisis,” Simpson said, but said he was unsure whether Stricter immigration policies would be proposed for the 2022 legislative session, which begins in January.

When asked if DeSantis wanted to do more in terms of state policy, he said the governor was “gathering information.”

Florida Officers Mission to Texas

At Saturday’s press conference, DeSantis said the activity state law enforcement officers intercepted at the border during their three weeks there bolstered its decision to send resources. state in Texas.

In addition to apprehending undocumented immigrants, state law enforcement officers – who patrolled the area by airboat, foot, and plane – also intercepted drugs, including methamphetamine, but not in “massive quantities”, Rick Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner of Florida. Swearingen said in an interview on Saturday.

The mission is expected to last until early August, with no promise that Florida taxpayers will be reimbursed by Texas.

Usually, the state requesting assistance reimburses other states for travel costs, said Christina Pushaw, a spokesperson for DeSantis. In this case, Texas asked Florida to send “all available police resources to the border to defend our sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

DeSantis complied and sent personnel and materials.

Texas does not plan to reimburse Florida expenses

A spokesperson for the Texas Department of Public Safety told the Time / Herald that states send troops “at their own expense” and that there will be no reimbursement. When questioned on Saturday, Abbott did not pledge to reimburse Florida for travel costs associated with the mission.

Although repayments seem unlikely, DeSantis and state officials say the mission is still a useful use of state funds.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Texas Governor Greg Abbott take a photo with law enforcement officials who participated in a mission to strengthen the Texas-Mexico border.  DeSantis dispatched staff from Florida at Abbott's request.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Texas Governor Greg Abbott take a photo with law enforcement officials who participated in a mission to strengthen the Texas-Mexico border. DeSantis dispatched staff from Florida at Abbott’s request. [ ANA CEBALLOS | Ana Ceballos, Times/Herald ]

“At the end of the day, Texas has helped us in the past. They asked for help from Florida, and the governor said we would help, ”Swearingen said. “So by finding the resources, we’re going to figure it all out. We will determine how we pay for it. But you can’t come here [Texas] and not realize what is going on here.

DeSantis added that the mission is within the means of the State.

“Obviously we’re doing it within an existing budget. We make sure that all of our priorities are met. We have a lot going on in the state, ”DeSantis said.

He then added: “I hope we will have other states to step up.”

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