By Jim Turner, The News Service of Florida
TALLAHASSEE — More than 50 state law-enforcement officers will depart Monday for Texas and Arizona to help with border control, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Friday during an appearance near Pensacola.
The announcement came after DeSantis earlier in the month said Florida would support a request from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey for help in battling illegal immigration at the border.
Democrats have described the deployment of Florida law officers to the border as a “political stunt” by DeSantis.
DeSantis said Friday he anticipates traveling to the border to visit the state officers while they are deployed. Former President Donald Trump, a DeSantis political ally, also is expected to visit the border Wednesday.
“Hopefully, I’ll be able to get out there at some point to wish them well, when they’re on the ground,” DeSantis said Friday while at an Interstate 10 weigh station, accompanied by members of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Florida Highway Patrol.
Officers from those three agencies will head west next week.
DeSantis said the mutual-aid effort will protect Florida, in part because of drugs crossing the border and landing in areas such as North Florida.
“I had met just weeks ago with some of our rural sheriffs up in North Florida, and their number one concern is all the meth that’s coming in,” DeSantis said.
“And all the meth is coming from the Southern border,” DeSantis continued. “Now, you used to have where people would cook it themselves, and all this stuff like that is just not what’s happening. What’s happening is a massive amount of drugs moving in from the Southern border. So, this has real effects on Florida communities.”
Other Republican governors also are backing the request from Abbott and Ducey for officers to go to the border, as the GOP tries to capitalize on public-safety issues ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.
Idaho Gov. Brad Little and Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts last week announced plans to send troopers to Texas, and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds followed suit Thursday.
“My first responsibility is to the health and safety of Iowans, and the humanitarian crisis at our nation’s Southern border is affecting all 50 states,” Reynolds said in a prepared statement.
Individual deployments are expected to last 16 days.
Abbott and Ducey estimated about 500 officers would be needed.
Costs for the deployment of Florida officers are expected to be picked up by Florida.
“That’s still a point of discussion,” DeSantis said. “I mean, if someone would help us, we would pick up some of their funding. And so, that’s how we would hope that it goes. But we don’t anticipate getting any federal funds.”
The state officers could be relieved by sheriff’s deputies from counties that have backed DeSantis’ deployment plans.
“We’ve got a lot of folks in the queue, “DeSantis said. “And there’s different ways the locals can support. If these guys are going out and there’s ever a need to backfill what they’re doing in Florida, then the locals can send and backfill that, while they’re doing the border. We also can send locals, but we were able to meet the need with the state resources to start.”
The deployment comes as the state is in court trying to block Biden administration immigration-enforcement decisions. Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody has argued that the Biden administration has shirked its responsibilities in enforcing immigration laws and threatened public safety.