DeSantis traveling to Texas-Mexico border with entourage of Florida officials – Miami Herald

A Border Patrol agent watches on Thursday, June 15, 2021, as a group of migrants walk across the Rio Grande on their way to turning themselves in upon crossing the U.S.-Mexico border in Del Rio, Texas.
A Border Patrol agent watches on Thursday, June 15, 2021, as a group of migrants walk across the Rio Grande on their way to turning themselves in upon crossing the U.S.-Mexico border in Del Rio, Texas. Eric Gay AP

TALLAHASSEE

Gov. Ron DeSantis will be at the Texas-Mexico border on Saturday for a briefing on border security with the governor of Texas and a contingent of Floridians.

His office announced Friday that he will be briefed by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott at an airport hangar in Del Rio, Texas, about two-and-a-half hours west of San Antonio.

Joining DeSantis from Florida will be Attorney General Ashley Moody, Senate President Wilton Simpson, the commissioner of the state police, the director of the Florida Highway Patrol and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Lt. Col. Brian Smith.

DeSantis announced last month that he was sending 50 state law enforcement officers to Texas to help enforce the U.S.-Mexico border, after the governors of Texas and Arizona issued a letter asking their counterparts across the country to send “all available law enforcement resources to the border in defense of our sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

U.S. Customs and Border Protection says southwest land border encounters for fiscal year 2021, which includes the end of Trump’s term and Biden’s tenure so far, are up compared with the past few years.

Republicans across the country have used the situation to criticize the Biden administration, and the governors of South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, Arkansas and Idaho have all announced they were sending police or National Guard troops to Arizona or Texas.

DeSantis, who is running for reelection next year and is widely considered to be running for president in 2024, has solidified his presence as a leading Republican on the national stage in the last year by embracing national “culture war” topics including immigration.

He’s blamed Biden’s immigration policies for worsening illegal immigration. In March, Moody sued to stop some recent Biden policies, including a 100-day “pause” on certain deportations, alleging that they would cause “unquantifiable harm to Florida’s citizenry.”

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In March, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced the reopening of Texas by lifting state capacity limits on businesses and the masking requirement. Abbott is calling for more funding to protect the border from illegal crossings. Lynda M. Gonzalez TNS / Dallas Morning News

Florida has sent Fish and Wildlife officers and airboats to Texas to help police on the border “as needed,” the agency said this week.

“Officers in the region are assisting local law enforcement agencies along the southern border, providing much-needed relief for local law enforcement stretched thin by the volume of people entering the country illegally,” an agency spokesman said in a statement. “Our training and equipment allow us to provide assistance in challenging remote locations.”

Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents are helping local police investigate “criminal activity associated with human smuggling, drugs and weapon smuggling,” department spokesperson Gretl Plessinger said in a statement on Wednesday.

Abbott and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey requested help through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, a partnership among all the states to provide mutual aid in times of emergencies, historically for disasters such as hurricanes or wildfires.

Plessinger said state agencies will try to be reimbursed for the costs of the trip, and they expected the topic to be addressed during the current Texas special legislative session.

Abbott’s office has not responded to questions from the Herald/Times about the costs.

DeSantis’ trip was quickly denounced by Democrats and left-leaning groups, who noted that the trip comes after St. Petersburg officials requested his help addressing red tide and as the state experiences a surge in COVID-19 infections.

“Governor Ron DeSantis has decided that the issue he’d most like to address is his own ambition to be president,” Progress Florida Executive Director Mark Ferrulo said in a written statement.

Herald/Times staff writer Ana Ceballos contributed to this report.