DeSantis mum on what state will do as Cuban, Haitian migrants land … – Tampa Bay Times

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Ron DeSantis is aware that hundreds of Cubans and Haitians have been arriving in South Florida by boat in recent weeks, but he is not saying what his administration — one that has embraced hardline immigration policies — plans to do about it.
The Keys, and South Florida, have seen a jump in migrant arrivals in recent years, but incidents have spiked in the last few months. Since Christmas alone, almost 500 Cubans and 130 Haitians have arrived in South Florida, overwhelming local authorities and raising fears of a mass migration event.
In response, DeSantis’ office is telling the public to “stay tuned” on what he plans to do about the issue.
“We are aware of this situation and presently working on it,” DeSantis’ press secretary Bryan Griffin said in an email.
The situation is forcing DeSantis to contend with the hardline immigration policies he has put in place — which among other things would allow the state to relocate migrants in South Florida out of the state — and the ideological rifts that exists within South Florida’s politically powerful Cuban American community.
Florida Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez — a Cuban-American Republican from Miami — was caught in the crosshairs of those political dynamics last August, when she suggested that Cubans who were in Florida “illegally” would be bused out of the state.
After facing criticism, Nuñez said her comments were intentionally twisted by Democrats and added that there was a difference between being a “political” refugee and immigrants who are coming into the country for “economic reasons.”
At the time, DeSantis defended Nuñez and said the state planned to relocate migrants who arrived in the country illegally, not refugees.
DeSantis’ office on Thursday did not respond when asked whether the state would seek to relocate any of the migrants — mostly Cubans and Haitians — who have arrived in South Florida in recent weeks.
But in a statement, his office said the governor remains “committed to acting within his power to shield Florida from the disastrous effects of President Biden’s abdication of his responsibility to secure our nation’s borders.”
DeSantis, who is eyeing a potential 2024 White House run, has repeatedly turned to the issue of immigration to criticize the Biden administration, a move that has endeared the Republican governor to the GOP base.
In the past year, DeSantis has spent millions in taxpayer dollars to help secure the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas, to fly 49 mainly Venezuelan migrants from San Antonio, Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, a Massachusetts island, and to sue the Biden administration over its immigration policies.
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In his inaugural speech on Tuesday, DeSantis said the federal government’s immigration policies have made “a mockery of the rule of law.”
The governor, however, has not commented on a series of new immigration policy measures announced by the Biden administration on Thursday.
Biden announced that his administration will dramatically expedite the expulsion of Cubans, Haitians and Nicaraguans back to Mexico if they cross the U.S. border illegally.
The U.S. will also significantly expand a parole program for citizens of those three countries so they can live and work in the country for two years if they have a sponsor.
According to official data, almost 225,000 Cubans arrived in the United States in 2022, an exodus larger than the 1980 Mariel boatlift, when 125,000 arrived in Florida.
In November, U.S. Customs and Border Protection had 35,849 encounters with Cuban nationals nationwide, mainly at the border with Mexico, a figure higher than in any month in fiscal year 2022.
Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau
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