DEL RIO, Texas
Four years after fleeing the “terror” in Cuba, crossing 13 borders, a dangerous jungle and finally the Rio Grande, Gelacio Vera Gonzalez and his wife Yenedi Monterrey Mena first touched American soil, Texas, in the border town of Del Rio .
They fell on their knees, looked up at the sky, and weeping thanked God. On a scorching Saturday afternoon, they had finally arrived at a place to express their opinions.
“This is the only country where we have opportunities because we cannot speak our mind there,” said Gelacio Vera Gonzalez. “We’re glad we’re here, but we think of the family we left behind who are still suffering from what we did.”
“Cuba is terrorized because we can’t speak,” said Monterrey Mena, who hopes to make it to Tennessee, where she and her husband have families.
Junior Sotomayor, a friend who crossed the Rio Grande with his arms entwined, said he wanted to go to Miami, where he also has family.
Within seconds of touching American soil, the three Cubans were arrested by a group of Texas law enforcement officers who began handing them over to US Customs and Border Police. It is still unclear whether they will be deported.
Just four hours earlier, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Attorney General Ashley Moody, and Senate President Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, had visited the exact same place where they were briefed on what about 50 Florida law enforcement officers did during a 23rd day to help Texas officers secure the US-Mexico border.
Following that visit, DeSantis and an entourage of state officials held a press conference with Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a fellow Republicans to speak about state efforts to enforce the US border.
The event was emblematic of border politics that has become more mainstream since President Joe Biden, a Democrat, took office. Republicans, even those not in border states like DeSantis, have used the issue to bolster their political base.
Timing a fundraiser with his visit
So the DeSantis Political Committee, which is staging for re-election in 2022 and considering running for the White House, did not hesitate to use the Texas mission as a fundraiser shortly after the press conference was over. He is not yet an officially declared candidate.
“If Joe Biden and Kamala Harris choose to support their party’s left-wing base with open borders instead of protecting our nation, then it is up to the rest of us to do what is necessary to combat this crisis. So when the governors of Texas and Arizona asked for help, I was the first governor to send resources, âDeSantis’ Friends of Ron DeSantis political committee said in a fundraising email to supporters.
According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, land border encounters in the southwest for fiscal year 2021, which includes the end of Trump’s tenure and Biden’s previous tenure, have increased year over year.
While in Texas, DeSantis said Florida law enforcement officers helped arrest more than 2,800 undocumented immigrants, such as the three Cuban friends who entered the United States illegally on Saturday afternoon.
“Of the people our law enforcement officers arrested at the border, more than 70% said they ultimately wanted to go to Florida,” DeSantis said during a press conference with Abbott in an airport hangar in Del Rio, Texas, a border town of more than 1,000 Miles from Florida’s capital, Tallahassee.
If the undocumented immigrants finally make it to Florida, it will be a “drain on public resources, schools, medicine, and all of those things,” according to DeSantis, and “will have a huge impact on communities across Florida, and I think, on the whole.” Country”.
DeSantis, who signed a 2019 ban on so-called sanctuary cities, none of which existed in Florida, and signed a 2020 commitment for some employers to use E-Verify to screen undocumented workers, did not mention these guidelines during the press conference.
But Simpson, who is believed to have his eye on a candidacy for agriculture commissioner, told the Herald / Times on Saturday that the policy “doesn’t appear to be a” deterrent after seeing how many undocumented immigrants are getting in Texas still want to go to Florida.
“I think it’s something that we need to look at as a state and what resources we have to deal with this crisis,” Simpson said, but said he doesn’t know if a stricter immigration policy will be proposed for the 2022 legislature. which starts in January.
When asked if the governor wanted to do more about state policy, he said the governor was “collecting information”.
Florida Officer Mission in Texas
During the press conference on Saturday, DeSantis said the activity intercepted state law enforcement during their three weeks there at the border reinforced his decision to send state resources to Texas.
In addition to arresting undocumented immigrants, state law enforcement officers – who patrolled the area by airboat, foot, and air – have also intercepted some drugs, including methamphetamine, but not in “massive amounts,” Florida Police Commissioner Rick said Swearingen in an interview on Saturday.
The mission is expected to last through early August with no promise that Texas taxpayers will be reimbursed.
Usually the state seeking assistance reimburses other states for travel expenses, said Christina Pushaw, a spokeswoman for DeSantis. In this case, Texas urged Florida to “send all available law enforcement resources to the border in defense of our sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
DeSantis followed suit and sent both personnel and equipment.
Texas has no plans to reimburse Florida’s expenses
A Texas Department of Public Security spokesman told the Herald / Times that the states are sending troops “at their own expense” and that there will be no refunds. When asked on Saturday, Abbott made no undertaking to reimburse Florida for mission-related travel expenses.
While refunds seem unlikely, DeSantis and state officials say the mission is still a worthwhile use of government funds.
âThe bottom line is that Texas has helped us in the past. They asked Florida for help and the governor said we would help, âsaid Swearingen. âSo when we find the resources, we’ll find out all of these things. We’ll find out how to pay for that. But you can’t come here [Texas] and don’t know what’s going on here. “
DeSantis added that the mission is within the state’s ability.
âOf course we do this within the framework of an existing budget. We make sure that all of our priorities are met. There’s a lot going on in the state, âDeSantis said.
Then he added: “Hopefully we will get some other states to reinforce.”