DeSantis issued an executive order activating the National Guard and other state resources “to protect Floridians from the dangerous impacts of the Biden Border Crisis.”
The order, “Emergency Management – Illegal Migration,” directs state law enforcement and other state agencies to support local governments “responding to the alarming influx of migrants landing in the Florida Keys” and to prevent migrant landing attempts.
Beginning on New Year’s Eve, hundreds of foreign nationals were apprehended after landing at Dry Tortugas National Park and surrounding areas in the Florida Keys. The Miami Border Patrol Sector has reported a significant increase in apprehensions over the past few months, after reporting a 500% increase in apprehensions in fiscal 2022. U.S. Coast Guard crews have apprehended a record number of Cubans at sea in the past several months and in fiscal 2022.
Miami Sector agents, responsible for patrolling 1,200 miles of coastal border in Florida, regularly work with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, including the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, which has jurisdiction over the Florida Keys.
The migrant influx has become “particularly burdensome for the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office,” DeSantis’ office said, which has 194 deputies and limited resources dedicated to providing public safety.
The Florida Keys and their vicinity are a primary destination for Cubans making a 90 nautical mile, four-hour journey, which have significantly increased under the Biden administration.
“The number of individuals attempting to come to the United States and unauthorized alien interdictions in and around Florida have risen to alarming levels not seen for decades,” DeSantis’ order states. Since last August, federal, state and local officials have interdicted more than 8,000 people in Florida’s territorial waters alone, he said.
From Sept. 1, 2021, to Oct. 31, 2022, Miami Sector Border Patrol agents apprehended 2,350 foreign nationals attempting to illegally enter Florida by sea. The majority were Cubans.
They also interdicted 131 maritime smuggling events, a 330% increase from fiscal 2021, Miami Sector Chief Patrol Agent Walter Slosar said last month.
A record 1,661 illegal foreign nationals were apprehended in the sector, and 107 people evaded law enforcement in December, according to preliminary data obtained by The Center Square from a Border Patrol agent.
The U.S. Coast Guard apprehended a record 2,723 Cubans between Oct. 1 and Dec. 10, 2022 – after they apprehended a record 6,182 in fiscal 2022, according to Coast Guard data. By comparison, they apprehended 49 Cubans in fiscal 2020.
“Such a mass migration of unauthorized aliens, including the associated abandonment of vessels, without appropriate support from the federal government, has created an unmanageable strain on local resources and will continue to overburden the capabilities of local governments throughout the state,” DeSantis’ order states.
While Florida has always welcomed refugees, especially Cubans and victims of Communism, DeSantis’ office said, it has done so through legal channels and with the cooperation of the federal government.
“The Biden Administration’s response has been inept,” DeSantis adds, “failing to provide the resources necessary to respond to the current mass migration event,” which in turn, “puts Floridians at risk.”
His order deploys air assets, including airplanes and helicopters, and expands Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission marine patrol to support water interdictions, among other measures.