DeSantis activates Florida National Guard over migrant surge

Immigration

(NewsNation) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order Friday activating the Florida National Guard in response to “the alarming influx of migrants landing in the Florida Keys.”

Officials told NewsNation that hundreds of migrants were bused from the Florida Keys to be processed elsewhere in the state as border patrol facilities in the area fill up.

A group was taken to Dania Beach, not far from Fort Lauderdale, given a court date, and then many were released to family and friends.

But that processing can take more than an hour per person and border agents are stretched thin in addition to providing additional support toward efforts to prevent further migrant landings on Florida shores.

“The burden of the Biden administration’s failure falls on local law enforcement who lack the resources to deal with the crisis,” DeSantis said in a press release. “That is why I am activating the National Guard and directing state resources to help alleviate the strain on local resources.”

Almost 8,000 Cubans and Haitians have been interdicted since August — about 50 per day compared with 17 per day in the 2021-22 fiscal year and just two per day during the 2020-21 fiscal year. 

“We see that on the southwest border right now, now it’s starting to happen in Florida as well,” said Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council.

Judd told NewsNation that border agents in Florida are overwhelmed by what’s been described as a migrant surge in the Florida Keys.

“All you’re doing is robbing Peter to pay Paul,” Judd said. “When you put them on these buses and transport them elsewhere, now you’re taking agents from that location out of the field to do the processing.”

Florida officials have appealed to the U.S. government to do more to deter migrants from making the risky trek.

President Joe Biden signaled a tougher stance on migrants coming from Cuba, Haiti and Nicaragua, saying it would immediately start turning people from those countries who cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally, as it has done with Venezuelans.

“They are completely overwhelmed right now,” Judd said. “When you’re dealing with people that are coming from Cuba. All of those agents are now being tasked with doing administrative duties rather than enforcement duties.”

Over the long holiday weekend, the U.S. Coast Guard stopped and sent back more than 600 people in Florida waters. The groups are coming mostly from Cuba and Haiti.

“These folks embark on these vessels that are homemade, rustic vessels, some of them have provisions, but they run out,” said Hansel Pintos, a spokesman for the Coast Guard. “A lot of these vessels I would say the grand majority of these vessels are not seaworthy.”

NewsNation got an exclusive look at the journey a group from Cuba took on one of these makeshift boats to the Florida Keys.

One man on board the boat described strong emotions when he and his friends saw the American flag and knew they’d survived the journey.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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