MIAMI – Responding to a question about an upsurge in Cuban migration during a recent interview on a South Florida Spanish-language radio station, Florida Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez said the administration of Gov. Ron DeSantis will send migrants who arrive to Florida illegally to Delaware.
Nuñez’s comments on WURN, “Actualidad 1040,” drew a strong rebuke from the two Democrats seeking to oust DeSantis in November.
But a spokesperson for the Governor’s campaign later said Cubans coming to South Florida would be exempt.
After being asked about the historic wave of Cuban migration to South Florida, Nuñez said, in part: “That’s why the governor has worked with the legislature, to secure funding to make sure…that people that are coming illegally…that they don’t stay here with their arms crossed, thinking about what they will be able to do. We are going to send that person, frankly, to Delaware, the president’s home state.”
The Lieutenant Governor added: “This is going to be worse than Mariel, worse than everything that happened when we saw the impact of the ‘80s and to do nothing is not an option.”
Such a move would follow similar steps taken by other Republican governors, including those in Texas and Arizona.
Nuñez drew immediate reaction from Democratic gubernatorial candidates.
“Playing partisan political games with Cuban refugees is a betrayal of our deepest values as Floridians and as Americans,” Charlie Crist tweeted. “These men and women are escaping a brutal and murderous regime and yearning to be free. They deserve better than to be treated as pawns in DeSantis’ political games designed to curry favor with the extremist base of the Republican Party.”
Gov. DeSantis's proposal to forcibly transport Cuban refugees out of Florida is reckless, inhumane and a betrayal of our deepest values as Americans.— Charlie Crist (@CharlieCrist) August 20, 2022
They deserve better than to be treated as his political pawns to curry favor with the extremist base of the Republican Party.
Meanwhile, candidate Nikki Fried called the Lieutenant Governor’s comments “wildly inappropriate.”
“Fleeing communism and tyranny to a state rich with family and culture only to be deported north by bus is cruel and wrong,” she tweeted.
Wildly inappropriate words from Ron DeSantis’ LG. Fleeing communism and tyranny to a state rich with family and culture only to be deported north by bus is cruel and wrong. https://t.co/Mhg9KBwqG5— Nikki Fried (@NikkiFried) August 20, 2022
Cuban-Americans, particularly those in South Florida, are a key constituency for DeSantis’ Republican Party. Cuban-Americans identify with the GOP by a 20-point margin, according to Pew Research.
Responding to criticism, DeSantis campaign spokesperson Christina Pushaw clarified Nuñez’s remarks vis-à-vis Cuban migrants in a tweet Saturday afternoon, drawing a distinction between Cuban migrants and those who enter the country illegally.
Pushaw says the comments were taken out of context.
“(Nuñez) clearly said that those who come illegally should be transported out of Florida, no matter where they came from,” Pushaw said. “If someone came to Miami on a raft from Cuba to escape communist repression, that person is legal (because they’re a) refugee. This isn’t hard to understand.”
.@LtGovNunez clearly said that those who come illegally should be transported out of Florida, no matter where they came from.— Christina Pushaw 🐊 🇺🇸 (@ChristinaPushaw) August 20, 2022
If someone came to Miami on a raft from Cuba to escape communist repression, that person is legal bc refugee.
This isn’t hard to understand. https://t.co/QWOCcCOzsY
The U.S. Coast Guard has intercepted more than 4,000 migrants at sea during this fiscal year.
Florida is also seeing a surge in migration from violence-stricken Haiti.