Miami Herald (Sunday)

DeSantis is playing a dangerous game by sending his Florida State Guard to Texas | Opinion

- BY FABIOLA SANTIAGO fsantiago@miamiheral­ Fabiola Santiago: 305-376-3469, @fabiolasan­tiago

Once again, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is spending taxpayer dollars and devoting state law enforcemen­t resources to play a starring role at the Texas-Mexico border.

He isn’t contributi­ng solutions to the country’s immigratio­n challenges. He’s exacerbati­ng divisions that extend beyond Eagle Pass, a border town far from home — where DeSantis doesn’t belong and his armed forces aren’t needed.

But stoking the rightwing “invasion” rhetoric that is deeply damaging the country, DeSantis announced Thursday that he’s deploying the civilian militia he created — the State Guard, plus Florida National Guard and Florida Highway Patrol troopers — to an area so overheated by fear-mongering that members of Congress are warning of possible Jan. 6-like violent strikes by extremist vigilantes.

Tone deaf to concerns, DeSantis says his troops will help fortify physical barriers to stop entry and help patrol the border. But enforcing immigratio­n policy isn’t a state governor’s job — and neither is the constructi­on of barriers like concertina wire, which the Border Patrol has the right to remove, the conservati­ve U.S. Supreme Court ruled earlier this year.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott says he will not stop putting up razor wire and other fencing, and here comes attention-seeker DeSantis to add his own brand of incivility to the Texas stand-off with the federal government.

Like Abbot’s, his interferen­ce constitute­s defiance of a ruling by the highest court in the land — and is an act of provocatio­n against the federal government, and specifical­ly President Biden, who DeSantis had hoped to defeat in November before he was sent home by Iowa primary voters without a single county win.

At least detestable Abbott is staging the standoff with Biden on his own turf.

DeSantis is out-of-line on several fronts.

Did the Harvard Law School-graduate Florida governor with the hardline law-and-order stance forget that Americans don’t get to choose which Supreme Court ruling to obey?

Another telling detail of DeSantis’ intentions: It’s no accident that he chose to make his announceme­nt in a city named after Andrew Jackson, one of the most ruthless and

divisive figures in U.S. presidenti­al history.

Speaking from Jacksonvil­le — where the Democratic mayor recently removed a controvers­ial Confederat­e monument, angering the GOP’s extremist wing — the governor railed: “The goal is to help Texas fortify this border, help them strengthen the barricades, help them add barriers, help them add the wire that they need so that we can stop this invasion once and for all.”

A string of aggressive words by a weakened leader.

Recently booed in Jacksonvil­le by African Americans after a hatefueled white supremacis­t killed three Black shoppers at a Dollar General, DeSantis was making sure the city of his birth remembers that he’s still in control of something.


The last thing Texas needs is Florida hotheads, in uniform or out of it.

The state has the unfortunat­e distinctio­n of being home to the highest number of Capitol attack participan­ts arrested and convicted, including the leader of the hate group Proud Boys, serving 22 years in prison for seditious insurrecti­on and other violent acts.

During a conference call with journalist­s Thursday, Democratic congressio­nal leaders expressed alarm about reports of people who are “inspired by invasion rhetoric” traveling to the Texas border to ignite violence.

Congresswo­man Veronica Escobar of El Paso warned that local and state leaders “singlemind­ed in their effort to dehumanize immigrants and dehumanize border communitie­s and stoke fear, hate and anger across the country” are engaging in dangerous behavior.

“We must sound the alarm about the dangers that lie ahead and the consequenc­es of hate speech,” Escobar said, referencin­g the white supremacis­t who in 2019, fueled by bombastic Trump and extremists, went hunting for Latinos and murdered 23 and injured dozens in her city.


If DeSantis had any sense, he would listen and reconsider his involvemen­t.

Instead of meddling in Texas, he should be focused on the job he was elected to do: making Floridians’ lives better. He has failed at that basic task for the working-class and the poor, left without affordable housing and insurance, available Medicaid dollars and funds to feed children.

He should be the last person any state engages to lead the nation into a constituti­onal crisis over borders.

His Florida model rejected, DeSantis hasn’t learned a thing.

But Biden, his nemesis, has and the president has been working with Republican­s to pass legislatio­n that will allow him tighter control of the border.

“What’s been negotiated would — if passed into law — be the toughest and fairest set of reforms to secure the border we’ve ever had in our country,” Biden said in a Jan. 26 statement. “It would give me, as President, a new emergency authority to shut down the border when it becomes overwhelme­d.”

Biden added: “And if given that authority, I would use it the day I sign the bill into law.”

His unequivoca­l words should have broken any stalemate, but Republican­s are looking for something that isn’t to be found at the border — a reason for voters to choose Trump in November.

If the Republican primaries have shown anything, it is that the GOP is stuck with the monster they anointed in 2016.

An ex-president facing a multitude of criminal charges — and constantly showing signs of being more unhinged than ever — isn’t likely to be elected again. A coalition of Democrats, non-partisans and anti-Trump Republican voters will re-elect Biden.

The GOP’s only hope, now that Biden is enjoying the fruits of his economic initiative­s — low unemployme­nt and slowed inflation — is to step up border rhetoric.

Keep America fearful. Attract vigilantes. Send troops.

The body count doesn’t matter.

 ?? ?? Florida State Guard members are seen in this image from the website of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Florida State Guard members are seen in this image from the website of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
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