Miami Herald (Sunday)

Sending Florida Guard to Texas is illegal under federal law

- BY IRA KURZBAN Ira Kurzban is a Miamibased immigratio­n attorney.

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ proposal to send the Florida Guard — a dangerousl­y unaccounta­ble armed force — to the U.S.-Mexico border is a wasteful, perilous political stunt and illegal.

The proposed action would invest millions of dollars of Florida taxpayers’ money and threaten both people arriving legally at our borders and our Constituti­on’s balance of power between state and federal government­s in a desperate ploy to reverse our governor’s waning political fortunes.

DeSantis establishe­d the Florida Guard on June 15, 2022, purportedl­y to enhance Florida’s capacity to deal with hurricanes. It was announced as a civilian force of approximat­ely 400 volunteers to supplement the Florida National Guard, which balances both state and federal government control. The governor asked for $2 million.


Within a year, DeSantis and the super-majority Republican Legislatur­e converted the small volunteer force into DeSantis’ expensive private army.

House Bill 1285 skyrockete­d the budget to $107.6 million, with half of the funds designated for “military” equipment. The number of “volunteers”— handpicked by the governor — increased from 400 to 1,500, and they were granted “police powers” to detain and arrest.

Although there is a titular head of the volunteers, the Guard may be “activated only by the governor and is at all times under the final command and control of the governor as the commander in chief of all military and guard forces of the state.” And it is not under the state’s military control because the law further provides that: “The division [i.e. State Guard] shall not be subject to control, supervisio­n or direction of the Department of Military Affairs in any manner…”

DeSantis moved quickly after that. He set up a military training center for millions of dollars and hired a combat-training company to recruit and train members of the

Guard. The contractor was awarded a non-competitiv­e $1.2 million contract and the company’s manual provides for hand-to-hand combat, busting down walls and interdicti­on in the sea.


When a retired 20-year Navy veteran, Brian Newhouse, joined the Guard because he thought it was a volunteer force for civilian matters, then voiced concerns that it was, in fact, an unaccounta­ble militia, he was thrown out of the program in July 2023.

The immigrant community in Florida and elsewhere has been worried that DeSantis’ army would be used to coerce, intimidate, arrest and incarcerat­e immigrants in Florida and elsewhere at DeSantis’ command.

Their fears are wellfounde­d.

The rest of us should be worried, too.

In America, the powers to arrest, detain and bear arms on behalf of the government are considered extraordin­ary powers that are exercised by trained profession­als subject to long-developed accountabi­lity mechanisms.

History shows, over and over, that unaccounta­ble armed power is almost always abused.

If the governor succeeds in brutally exercising illegal powers at the border, there is every reason to believe he will subsequent­ly find other uses for this power.


DeSantis is sending these troops to Texas to generate publicity by confrontin­g the federal government and intimidati­ng people at the border.

The governor knows well that his actions are illegal under 32 USC 109(c), which allows for the provision of a state guard, but only under the condition that they “may be used within the jurisdicti­on concerned.” But he is spending millions of Florida tax dollars on the stunt anyway because he hopes it will get him back on Fox News.

This is also a test. The governor’s publicly financed private army is a threat to our democracy.

If we allow DeSantis to deploy it brutally and illegally in Texas, we will have failed the test and it will not be long before the force will be brutally and illegally deployed at home.

 ?? ?? 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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