DeSantis defends migrants flying to California as he meets with sheriffs near the border

SIERRA VISTA, Ariz. (AP) — Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Wednesday defended his state’s decision to transport migrants from the U.S.-Mexico border to California, arguing that the state essentially invited the migrants with its welcoming policies towards immigrants.

DeSantis, a Republican presidential candidate, spoke at a meeting with sheriffs near Arizona’s border with Mexico, pledging to take control of the border and show force on a signature question for Donald Trump, his main rival for the 2024 nomination.

“I think the border should be closed. I don’t think we should have all of that,” DeSantis said. “But if there’s a policy to have an open border, then I think the sanctuary jurisdictions should be the ones that have to put up with that.”

The DeSantis administration said this week that the three dozen migrants the state recently transported from El Paso, Texas, to Sacramento at taxpayer expense all left of their own free will, disputing claims that the individuals were allegedly forced to travel under false pretenses. California authorities are investigating whether any violations of criminal or civil law have occurred.

For DeSantis, the focus on immigration is a chance to bolster his credibility on a major issue for GOP primary voters. He sees political benefit in picking a high profile fight with liberal California and its Democratic governor, Gavin Newsom, who has become a bogeyman to many on the right.

It’s also an opportunity for DeSantis to confront an issue that was at the heart of Trump’s call, which promised to build a border wall and make Mexico pay for it. By the end of his administration, the wall was not finished and American taxpayers had to pay the billions of dollars it cost.

This is not the first time that DeSantis has chartered planes to transfer migrants across the country. Last fall, Florida flew 49 Venezuelans to the posh Massachusetts island of Martha’s Vineyard.

California declared itself a “sanctuary” for immigrants after Trump was elected president, extending protections to people living in the country illegally and allowing them to apply for certain state benefits. DeSantis said these policies serve as a magnet for people seeking a better life and make it harder to crack down on illegal immigration.

“Sanctuary jurisdictions are part of the reason we have this problem because they’ve endorsed and lobbied for these types of open border policies,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis did not respond to Newsom, who raised the possibility of kidnapping charges and called DeSantis a “pathetic little man”.

Immigration is a national problem that border states shouldn’t have to deal with alone, DeSantis said, adding that the federal government should give states more power to enforce immigration law on their own. Beyond the migrant flights, he touted Florida’s other efforts to combat illegal immigration across its borders, including sending in National Guard soldiers and law enforcement officers. order in Texas and the banning of migrant boats off the coast of Florida.

DeSantis said Florida taxpayers were okay with his use of public funds to move migrants from Texas to California, saying it was a problem in the campaign in which he was overwhelmingly re-elected Last year. DeSantis signed legislation in May allocating $12 million that can be used for migrant thefts.

Two weeks into his presidential campaign, DeSantis is far behind Trump. He did not mention his rival by name, instead taking aim at President Joe Biden’s border policy, which he blamed on drug proliferation.

Florida’s governor met with sheriffs from across the country at a community college in the town of Sierra Vista in southeastern Arizona, a conservative enclave that is home to many Border Patrol agents and is next door from the Fort Huachuca military base. Later, his aides said he planned to go to the border but did not allow reporters to come.

Trump’s super PAC noted that DeSantis praised his rival’s immigration policies on Twitter two years ago and highlighted the former president’s immigration plans. Trump renewed his promise to end birthright citizenship and his willingness to use the US military to attack foreign drug cartels. He also pushed for the death penalty for drug traffickers.

In Arizona, DeSantis has pledged to crack down on “false asylum claims” by people who want to move to the United States for economic reasons. who have traveled through other safe countries to get here.

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