Florida Govt. Ron DeSantis mobilized the state National Guard on Friday to help local officials manage the huge influx of Cuban immigrants arriving in the Keys.
DeSantis issued an executive order activating the National Guard and directing state law enforcement agencies to support the Keys in response to the arrival of some 700 immigrants – mostly Cubans – over New Year’s weekend alone.
In a statement, the governor criticized the immigration policies of President Joe Biden and the federal government and the response to the arrival of migrants in the Keys.
In his text, the governor did not mention an announcement Thursday by the Biden administration about a new policy that will begin deporting Cubans, Haitians and Nicaraguans who cross the southern border illegally, as have Venezuelans. Already together. The federal government also said it would offer parole a month to 30,000 people from those four countries if they apply online, pay for their plane tickets and find financial sponsors.
Some immigrant rights activists said the new policy could worsen the situation in Florida. Ramón Raúl Sánchez of the Cuban-American group Movimiento Democracia said that more Cubans could risk their lives by going by sea to reach the United States, rather than flying to Central America and reaching the Texas border by land.
Blas Nuñez Neto, acting undersecretary for border and immigration policy at the Department of Homeland Security, said the new program could encourage Cubans not to come illegally by sea.
He said Cubans might do better if they applied under the new parole program announced Thursday, because that would give them a potential path to residency they might not otherwise get.
“Don’t risk your life at sea” as there are “better options” under the new programme, he said.
DeSantis said Florida would deploy planes, helicopters and maritime patrols to the area “to support waterborne sanctions and ensure the safety of migrants trying to reach Florida through the Florida Straits.”
More than 4,400 migrants, mostly Cubans and some Haitians, have arrived by boat in Florida since August as the two countries face a deepening political and economic crisis. Since Washington and Havana do not have diplomatic relations, it is problematic for the US government to deport Cubans once they arrive in Florida.
Those who have been detained at sea are returned, because Cuba accepts them. Nearly 8,000 Cubans and Haitians have been intercepted since August, about 50 days compared to 17 days in the 2021-2022 fiscal year and just two during the 2020-2021 fiscal year. At least 65 migrants have died at sea since August, officials said.