The following editorial was published in The Daily Sun on June 5, 2023.
OUR POSITION: We may need law enforcement resources here in Florida as much as they do in Texas.
Gov. Ron DeSantis last month announced he was sending State Police troopers, National Guard troops, drones and aircraft to Texas in response to caravans and influxes of migrants and others crossing the U.S. border with Mexico.
The Florida governor said 800 National Guard troops, more than 300 Highway Patrol and State Police troopers, 20 emergency management technicians, 17 drones, five aircraft and 10 boats are part of the Sunshine State’s deployments and offerings.
The move coincides with DeSantis’ signing of controversial state immigration bills including $12 million to relocate undocumented migrants to other states, expands E-Verify requirements on employers with more than 25 workers to confirm workers’ legal status and require hospitals to ask Medicaid patients about their citizenship status.
The former comes after DeSantis shipped migrants to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts last year as part of GOP efforts to highlight the border situation.
Democrats and immigrant groups criticized the DeSantis’ Martha’s Vineyard move as a political stunt.
DeSantis faces similar questions allocating Florida National Guard and state police personnel and resources to Texas.
That dynamic will only increase with the Florida governor’s entrance in the 2024 presidential race. He is currently second in GOP polls to former president Donald Trump.
There is no doubt U.S. immigration and border policies are major issues including the flow of fentanyl and other drugs as well as human trafficking (including young women and children).
Multiple U.S. administrations (including the current one) and both political parties have been unable and, honestly, unwilling to find common ground to address the issue.
There are some legitimate questions as to whether Florida police personnel and National Guard troops should be deployed to Texas rather than dedicating resources across on home turf.
There are plenty of public safety concerns here in Florida. That includes immigrants arriving via boats and even makeshift rafts from Haiti and Cuba. Haiti has been in the midst of a humanitarian and public safety crisis after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in 2021. Criminal gangs pretty much run the Caribbean island 700 miles from Miami. Florida has also seen marked increases in fentanyl smuggling as well as catalytic converter thefts.
According to a new analysis by data research firm BeenVerified, there were 46 catalytic converter thefts from cars and trucks in 2019. Last year, Florida saw 2,969 thefts of the valuable auto part that is frequently resold by theft rings.
That is a 6,354% increase. Parts of Florida — including along the southwestern coast — are also seeing significant increases in fentanyl smuggling, busts and overdoses as the synthetic opioid becomes a favored and dangerous ingredient in illegal drug compounds.
Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno told Fox News and WFTX-TV that fentanyl busts are up 200% locally compared to a year ago.
Fentanyl’s rise and dangers are playing out across the state and country.
DeSantis can certainly make the argument that sending Florida resources to Texas helps address fentanyl smuggling. Much of the dangerous drug is brought into the U.S. from Mexico.
But there is also certainly an argument that the governor and the state could dedicate resources, money, technology and personnel here in Florida to combat drugs, human trafficking, auto thefts and other public safety challenges.
That includes more resources and energy toward combating fentanyl overdoses here in Florida where drug fatalities have gone from just over 2,600 in 2014 to more than 8,000 annually, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and National Institutes of Health.
With DeSantis officially in the presidential race, he faces questions about his decisions and moves as governor and whether they are motivated by his White House aspirations.
Some of those questions and criticism will come from partisan and political corners. Some might come from critics of the governor who readily forget his 19.4% point blowout over Democrat (and former GOP governor) Charlie Crist.
Still, DeSantis needs to explain his moves in the backdrop of his presidential run and how they are in the best of interests of our state.
He still works for us.