DeSantis Points Finger at Sanctuary Jurisdictions, Defends Immigration Flights to California

DeSantis Points Finger at Sanctuary Jurisdictions, Defends Immigration Flights to California
Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) speaks during a campaign stop at Manchester Community College in Manchester, New Hampshire, on June 1, 2023. (Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images)
Caden Pearson

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) defended his state’s recent transport of illegal immigrants to Sacramento on Wednesday, arguing that sanctuary jurisdictions like California share the blame for the illegal immigration crisis.

Speaking from Arizona, where he hosted a roundtable on the southern border with sheriffs from various states, DeSantis criticized the lack of federal action in safeguarding U.S. sovereignty and territorial integrity. He specifically targeted sanctuary jurisdictions, suggesting that they should bear the consequences of the ongoing illegal immigration crisis.

As he campaigns for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, the Republican governor highlighted Florida’s allocation of resources to transport illegal immigrants to sanctuary jurisdictions that have openly welcomed such individuals.

“These sanctuary jurisdictions are part of the reason we have this problem because they have endorsed and agitated for these types of open border policies. They have bragged that they are sanctuary jurisdictions,” DeSantis said.

Undeterred by criticism over sending the flights to Sacramento, he pointed out that the leaders of these jurisdictions had vehemently criticized the immigration policies of the previous Trump administration. A number of Democrat-led cities declared themselves sanctuary cities in response to former President Donald Trump’s immigration policies.

“And then what?” DeSantis added. “When they have to deal with some of the fruits of that, they all of a sudden become very, very upset about that. Well, I don’t have sympathy for them.”

Since President Joe Biden assumed office, illegal immigration at the U.S.–Mexico border has surged. Florida has also witnessed arrivals by boat at its maritime border from countries like Haiti.

However, some of these sanctuary cities, including New York and Chicago, have struggled to manage the influx of illegal immigrants sent by border states via buses and planes.

California: ‘State-Sanctioned Kidnapping’

Florida recently admitted to sending two flights carrying illegal immigrants to Sacramento. In response, California Attorney General Rob Bonta characterized the actions as “state-sanctioned kidnapping” and accused Florida of exploiting vulnerable individuals, suggesting the possibility of criminal charges against the state.

On Tuesday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, directed a critical Twitter post at DeSantis, calling him a “small, pathetic man” and questioning the actions as “kidnapping.” Newsom doubled down on his insults on Wednesday, accusing DeSantis of being “desperate for attention.”

“Let’s level set. Here’s a governor from the state of Florida that is using taxpayer money and had to go to another state to find people under false pretenses. I don’t think this. I know this. I talked to the migrants,” Newsom told NBC News on Wednesday.

“[He] lied to them. Took them into another state by bus and then took them on a chartered flight to Sacramento, lying to them that they help on the other side,” Newsom continued. “[They] knocked on the door, and they left these migrants right there on the steps.”

When questioned about the possibility of California authorities arresting DeSantis during his upcoming visit to the state for a fundraising event, Newsom dialed back his rhetoric, describing the line of questioning as hyperbolic. The governor emphasized the need for an investigation but claimed that based on conversations with some of the individuals affected, he believed a crime had been committed.

“I take this very seriously ... We’re not backing away and getting the facts and holding those accountable if they’re broke the laws in the state of California,” he said.

The Florida Division of Emergency Management stated that the individuals were flown to California as part of a voluntary relocation, with the participants expressing their desire to go to California through verbal and written consent, reported Fox News. A contractor was present to ensure their safe transfer to a third-party NGO, according to an email from the division.

Thousands of illegal immigrants have been transported from southern border states to sanctuary cities and states in protest over what Republican leaders have described as Biden’s open border policies.

DeSantis reiterated his support for border closure and the construction of an impenetrable wall on Wednesday. He cited Florida’s policy of repatriating individuals attempting to enter the state by boat, which has led to a significant decrease in arrivals from countries like Haiti.

“The border needs to be completely shut down,” he said, adding that people should be informed that they will not be allowed to make a “bogus asylum claim” and be released into the country under Biden’s catch-and-release policy.