Despite the tragedy unfolding in Miami Beach with the Surfside building collapse, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was nowhere near South Florida on Friday. Instead he was in the panhandle, in Pensacola to be exact, to announce he was sending 50 state law enforcement officers to the southern border.
DeSantis says the officers are being sent to the Mexican border to, as the governor put it, help Texas out. The personnel are coming from a variety of Florida agencies, including Highway Patrol and Fish & Wildlife officers. Pensacola is what DeSantis called last week the closest spot in Florida to the southern border.
The morning press conference had all the trappings of a political event surrounding a hot-button GOP talking point meant to raise the national profile of a man widely seen to have 2024 presidential aspirations. And of course, DeSantis found the time to talk to Fox News about it.
DeSantis joins other Republican governors, including Iowa’s Kim Reynolds and Nebraska’s Pete Ricketts, who have responded to Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Arizona Governor Doug Ducey’s request for assistance in dealing with what they call the “border crisis.” DeSantis also said he could send more personnel down the road. He said it’s still not decided yet who will ultimately pick up the tab for the cost of sending the officers to the border.
Also left unanswered is why DeSantis believes sending dozens of state officers to the southern border is a better use of resources when something as horrific as the Surfside building collapse is happening several hours south of Pensacola. There is room to discuss the seriousness of the situation at the border, certainly. But there are legitimate questions about how much it directly impacts Florida, although the governor says it’s about stopping the flow of illegal drugs into the state.
“I met just weeks ago with some rural sheriffs in Northern Florida and their number one concern is all the meth coming from the Southern Border,” DeSantis told West Palm Beach’s WPTV.
But there remains the question of what those Florida officers can actually do. They have no jurisdiction in Texas, unless there is a federally-coordinated effort happening, and all indications are that the federal government is not involved in this.
The governor was sharply criticized for appearing to prioritize personal political gain over doing his current job.
DeSantis hasn’t ruled out a visit of his own to the U.S.-Mexican border. If it happens, perhaps he is waiting for next week, when former president Trump is expected to visit the region and wade back in to the immigration debate.