The Florida state police dispatched by Gov. Ron DeSantis to help patrol the Texas-Mexico border have assisted in arrests of more than 2,800 undocumented immigrants, including more than 100 felony arrests, the governor said Saturday.
Those offenses included human trafficking, drug smuggling, and stolen vehicles, DeSantis said during a news briefing also attended by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
“They have had a big impact,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis sent 50 state officers to Texas on June 24 in response to Abbott’s request for help.
Both GOP governors have criticized President Joe Biden for reversing border policies approved by former President Donald Trump, including separating young children from their families and forcing asylum seekers to remain in Mexico pending decisions on their cases.
The GOP critics deride the Biden policy as “open borders” but the president retained a Trump policy allowing the immediate expulsion of the undocumented, although he plans to drop that soon for families, according to a Reuters analysis.
DeSantis is seen as a likely contender for his party’s presidential nomination in 2024 if Trump decides not to run.
Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Nikki Fried — the state’s only Democrat elected statewide and a contender in the 2022 Democratic gubernatorial primary — issued a written statement denouncing DeSantis’ trip.
“Floridians are living through multiple crises including historic protests for Cuban freedom, the worst red tide in years, recovery efforts from the tragic Surfside collapse, and once-again skyrocketing COVID-19 cases — but this governor chooses to skip town and play Border Patrol,” Fried said.
“We have issues that need leadership here in Florida, but the governor is more interested in what even Texans are calling ‘political manipulation’ at the border. He should let the experts handle immigration and focus on trying to run our state.”
Law enforcement officials from both states were present, including Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody — although Abbott neglected to mention her when introducing Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, even though Moody was sitting directly next to him. DeSantis was forced to recognize her later. Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson was there, too.
“Particularly for me, what’s been the most eye-opening is the number of these people coming across illegally who are telling folks that their destination is Florida. Obviously, I knew we were going to be getting some, but I didn’t think it would be a majority,” DeSantis said.
He provided no numbers to back up his statement at the time.
Steven McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said Florida Highway Patrol troopers have been teamed with their Texas counterparts, as have Florida wildlife officers with Texas officers patrolling the Rio Grande. Florida Department of Law Enforcement officers are also on the scene.