Flanked by several dozen uniformed members of Florida’s State Guard and standing behind a podium displaying the words “Stop the Invasion,” Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday announced a plan to send the civilian force and other resources to Texas, where Gov. Greg Abbott’s administration has been embroiled in a standoff with the White House over the U.S-Mexico border.
DeSantis said the State Guard, which he has grown over the last two years and transformed from a volunteer force meant to help citizens after hurricanes and other disasters into a militia with combat training, will deploy to Texas to help “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.”
The governor also said he will send a battalion of the Florida National Guard to Texas.
Abbott in recent days has directed the Texas National Guard to continue putting up razor wire at the U.S.-Mexico border, following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allowed the Biden administration to remove the wire.
DeSantis said members of the State Guard would be sent to Texas soon under the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, a partnership between all state governments which allows Texas to give guardsmen deployed from Florida “the same arrest and law enforcement powers, right, and privileges while operating within the state limits of Texas as ordinarily afforded to law enforcement forces for the State of Texas.”
The announcement came as 25 state chapters of the ACLU condemned Abbott’s escalation and the support the Texas governor is getting from other Republican “enablers,” including DeSantis.
“Our governors are embracing Gov. Abbott’s xenophobic rhetoric and putting communities of color and immigrants in danger instead of working to improve quality of life in our states,” said the ACLU chapters. “This is not standing up for our communities; it is standing against them.”
The Florida governor, who ended his campaign to be the Republican presidential nominee last month, has previously sent the Florida National Guard and highway troopers to the Texas border, but the State Guard deployment marks the first time the force will be deployed outside the state.
Florida Democratic Party Chair Nikki Fried said the planned deployment was “a massive waste of resources that distracts from delivering results for Floridians” and a case of DeSantis “screaming from the sidelines for attention.”
“What happened to focusing on Florida?” said Fried. “As Ron limps back to his mansion as America’s biggest loser, he’s desperate to grab headlines and get ‘wins’ on the board… This latest attempt to insert himself in the national conversation is just another political stunt with a heavy price tag for taxpayers.”
Fried called on DeSantis to focus on Florida’s homeowners’ insurance crisis, in which insurers are raising rates partially due to the intensifying climate risks they face.
“Instead of using this legislative session to address the property insurance crisis, Ron and his Republican supermajority are back to their old tricks,” said Fried. “Floridians deserve better.”
As The Miami Herald reported Thursday, the Florida State Guard was originally a 200-member World War II-era force created to “pass out water bottles and other supplies after emergencies within Florida.” Under DeSantis, the force has grown to 1,500 members who “wear camouflaged uniforms and are referred to as ‘soldiers'” instead of deploying in “polo shirts and khakis.”
DeSantis got approval from the legislature last year to deploy the State Guard for out-of-state emergencies and sent a select group to a combat training facility, as well as pouring $100 million into the force for new planes and boats.
The governor’s announcement on Thursday was “exactly” what one lawmaker, state Rep. Dan Daley (D-97), was concerned DeSantis would ultimately use the State Guard for.
Members of the force are “being used as pawns in a national political game,” said Daley.
Exactly what I was concerned with…— Dan Daley (@DanDaley) February 1, 2024
The Florida State Guard was created as an “auxiliary” to an overworked and understaffed National Guard – now they’re being used as pawns in a national political game – and Florida taxpayers are on the hook for it. https://t.co/Bbqaf8Dq7p
“Our State Guard is not the governor’s personal army and they’ve NEVER been sent outside Florida,” added activist and former Florida lawmaker Carlos Guillermo Smith. “This is out of control.”
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