(The Center Square) – U.S. Sen. Rick Scott is questioning Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ decision to deploy state and local law enforcement officers to the U.S.-Mexico border.
On Newsmax’s “Spicer and Co.” Wednesday and Panama City’s News Talk 101 Thursday, Scott said the border’s “national security threat” is causing a surge in human trafficking and fentanyl overdoses in Florida.
"What I would be doing is focusing on how we can help law enforcement in Florida stop this fentanyl,” he said. “The biggest problem I see in Florida is on the fentanyl side. I’d be focused on the fentanyl problem in our state.”
Flanked by sheriffs and police chiefs Wednesday in Pensacola, DeSantis announced Florida will send law enforcement to the border in response to a June 10 letter from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey asking their fellow 48 governors for assistance.
Just as Florida sent first-responders to assist Louisiana in hurricane recovery and to fight California wildfires, the governor said the state is obligated via mutual-assistance pacts to render aid.
“There’s certain disaster emergency situations where we just tend to step up and help one another, so that’s what we’re doing here,” DeSantis said, saying that since President Joe Biden stopped deporting those in the country illegally, violent crime and drug-related deaths have increased, including in Florida.
“It’s (unlike) anything anyone’s ever seen down there. You have caravans that are making their way and pouring across the border,” DeSantis said. “You absolutely have the cartels taking full advantage of what is going.”
The Florida Highway Patrol, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission and several sheriffs’ offices have agreed to send officers for up to 16 days to Texas and Arizona, he said.
Through May, the U.S. Border Patrol logged nearly 930,000 enforcement encounters at the border this year, more than double 2020 encounters.
DeSantis said the state’s spiking crime rate isn’t “organic to Florida” but spurred by the new administration’s rescission of Trump immigration policies.
“This was a crisis created by going against policies that would be working just ’cause you don’t like your predecessor,” DeSantis said, noting Florida is first state to respond to the call for mutual assistance.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Wednesday seven states in addition to Florida have pledged assistance. He said Oklahoma, Arkansas, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Georgia and South Carolina are sending law enforcement officers and/or state national guardsmen.
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody Thursday urged other states to “send help” and praised DeSantis.
“Unfortunately, Florida has to do what @JoeBiden refuses to do – secure the border. The crisis he created makes all of us less safe,” she tweeted. “I’m proud to stand with @GovRonDeSantis and FL’s brave LEOs to protect Floridians from the criminals and drugs flooding the southern border.”
Democrats, including both announced 2022 gubernatorial hopefuls, blasted DeSantis.
Agriculture Commissioner and gubernatorial candidate Nikki Fried, Florida’s only statewide-elected Democrat, tweeted, “Florida’s current governor just makes controversies up to get on Fox News.”
“Diverting state law enforcement to Texas and Arizona is a political stunt that makes our state less safe,” tweeted U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Tampa, also a gubernatorial hopeful.
“Another political STUNT by @GovRonDeSantis – instead of perpetuating the attacks on immigrants & going after Biden Administration, why don’t you focus on the people who live in FL! We’re dealing w/a broken unemployment system & affordable housing crisis that you could be fixing!” tweeted Sen. Annette Taddeo, D-Miami, mulling her own gubernatorial run.
“Some basic questions for @RonDeSantisFL,” tweeted Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando. “How does this help Florida? Who’s paying? Will this DEFUND local police? What will they be doing at the border? When is @GovRonDeSantis gonna stop chasing boogeymen to start actually helping Floridians?”