DeSantis on migrant relocation program during visit to Arizona: ‘Border should be closed’

SIERRA VISTA, Ariz. – Gov. Ron DeSantis, who wants to be the next U.S. president, defended his migrant relocation program on Wednesday during his visit to the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona.

DeSantis shifted the blame during an event in Arizona’s city of Sierra Vista.

“I think the border should be closed,” DeSantis said. “I don’t think we should have any of this.”

As DeSantis seeks the Republican presidential nomination, the program funded by Florida taxpayers has positioned him to attack President Joe Biden, who is seeking reelection.

“Biden is derelict in the performance of his duties and refuses to uphold the borders of our nation,” DeSantis said. He later added that Florida was taking a “no-nonsense approach to border enforcement nationwide.”

DeSantis did not mention the ongoing criminal investigation in California during a roundtable discussion with Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody and a panel of sheriffs.

“These sanctuary jurisdictions are part of the reason we have this problem. When they have to deal with some of the fruits of that, they suddenly become very, very upset with that,” DeSantis said.

The group of eight sheriffs who defended DeSantis included two from Florida, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, and Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey.

“In Florida, we could sit back and say, ‘Well, we will fight this in our backyard,’ but instead we say, ‘Let’s fight it on the front, let’s join together, let’s be united!’ That’s what this is about,” Ivey said.

There were also two from Texas: Terrell County Sheriff Thad Cleveland and Collin County Sheriff Jim Skinner. There were two from Arizona: Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels and Graham County Sheriff P. J. Allred, who described a pursuit in the desert.

“When they see us as law enforcement and the vehicles come to a stop, they run to us as law enforcement to get away from the coyotes that were carrying them,” Allred said.

The group also included Canyon County Sheriff Keiran Donahue from Idaho, the vice President of the National Sheriff’s Association, and Lea County Sheriff Corey Helton from New Mexico who both criticized the federal government.

“I feel, as an elected sheriff, my job is to protect the community that elected me to do that, and we simply cannot do that; we cannot keep up,” Helton said.

DeSantis said that sentiment prompted him to send Florida state law enforcement officers and equipment to Texas in 2021. He restricted the U.S. resettling program in Florida and prohibited the licensing of facilities that house unaccompanied migrant minors.

DeSantis also mandated employers with 25 or more workers to use E-Verify, a federal system to verify employment eligibility, invalidates identification cards issued in other states, and requires hospitals to submit cost data.

On Tuesday, The Florida Division of Emergency Management released videos and a statement saying the migrants in California had volunteered to participate. Also, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security reported a 70% drop in migrant encounters at the U.S.-Mexico border since May 11.

“It’s probably as bad as it’s ever been,” DeSantis said ignoring the data.

During an interview with NBC News, Newsom accused DeSantis of using the asylum seekers as “pawns.” Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, accused DeSantis of causing chaos and confusion while “playing games and political stunts.”

Watch the roundtable discussion

Watch the FDEM video

About the Authors:

Glenna Milberg joined Local 10 News in September 1999 to report on South Florida's top stories and community issues. She also serves as co-host on Local 10's public affairs broadcast, "This Week in South Florida."

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.