Ron DeSantis’ “Immigration Crackdown”—Will That Include LEGAL Immigration?
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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is suddenly under fire, including from some backers, for signing a fairly strict abortion law [Big Republican Donor ‘And a Bunch of Friends’ Back Off DeSantis Over Culture War Politics: ‘Very Big Problem,’ by Caleb Howe, Mediaite, April 15, 2023]. The U.S. political class, left and right, loves the abortion issue. But more significant from’s point of view: the attack the New York Times launched on DeSantis earlier last week, claiming he is pushing radical legislation on the Sunshine State inhospitable to illegal aliens [DeSantis Pushes Toughest Immigration Crackdown in the Nation, by Miriam Jordan, April 10, 2023].

The legislative package does show DeSantis is solid on illegal immigration. But it also invites the question as to what he thinks about legal immigration—especially the current influx of Cuban aliens. DeSantis could set himself apart from the GOP Presidential field by adopting full immigration patriotism, including a plan to stop all immigration. But will he?

Amusingly, the NYT’s coverage almost seemed ripped from a De Santis campaign ad:

The bills would expose people to felony charges for sheltering, hiring and transporting undocumented immigrants; require hospitals to ask patients their immigration status and report to the state; invalidate out-of-state driver’s licenses issued to undocumented immigrants; prevent undocumented immigrants from being admitted to the bar in Florida; and direct the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to provide assistance to federal authorities in enforcing the nation’s immigration laws.

Mr. DeSantis has separately proposed eliminating in-state college tuition for undocumented students and beneficiaries of the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, who were brought to the United States as young children.

DeSantis’ bill is the “most far-reaching state immigration legislation” since Arizona’s SB1070, the NYT’s Jordan claimed. Of course, Jordan [Tweet her] had to add that “critics warn the proposed new legislation, by targeting some long-established residents of the state, will sow fear, promote racial profiling and harm Florida’s economy, and some Republican business leaders have come out against it.” That provided her the chance to boost cucky Republican governors like Utah’s Spencer Cox, who wants Congress to pass Amnesty. As well, Jordan found the Treason Lobby suspects to denounce the plan as an appeal to the “extreme right.” has previously reported on Florida’s plan to curtail illegal immigration and praised it as a model for other states. Mandatory e-Verify and preventing illegals from even living in a state would go a long way to making the whole country unwelcome to foreign invaders.

But still unmentioned is legal immigration. Too many proponents of the De Santis legislative package want to emphasize that they still support it:

“There’s a right way and a wrong way to come here,” GOP state senator Debbie Mayfield said during a hearing on the bills. “We have a process in this country. We’re not trying to hurt or harm people who are here legally.”

Thus some DeSantis people took umbrage with the NYT headline, which didn’t specify that the bills targeted illegal immigration. DeSantis spokeswoman Christina Pushaw tweeted that the headline should be corrected to read “illegal immigration,” and criticized the NYT for not knowing the difference. DeSantis supporters on Twitter parroted that line. DeSantis World apparently wants that aspect of the legislation made loud and clear.

The governor hasn’t directly stated his position on legal immigration. But he in fact has given hints he might favor restrictionism. In a speech delivered at last year’s National Conservatism conference, DeSantis criticized “mass immigration” and endorsed previous forms of immigration restriction:

[W]hen you look at what’s happened at the border, we focus on the criminal aliens, drugs, all that’s very important, but just the sheer number of people overwhelms communities. And this idea of mass immigration, whether it’s illegal immigration, or whether it’s just mass immigration through the legal process, like the Diversity Lottery or chain migration, that is not conducive to assimilating people into American society.

So the national interests of our country, and we’ve had a variety of different immigration policies throughout our country’s history, we’ve had periods where we had high immigration levels that we had success, but we’ve also had periods where we had great success with immigration levels being very low, such as the years, decades after World War Two.

So the issue is, is how does immigration serve the people of the United States and the national interests? We’re not globalists who believe that foreigners have a right to come into our country whenever they want to. It’s what we think is the right thing to do.

In his new book, The Courage To Be Free, DeSantis also criticized mass legal Immigration and the public policies that enable it:

Our nation needs immigration policies that recognize and enforce the country’s sovereignty, not just by having a wall at the southern border but also by quickly repatriating those in the country illegally. An erroneous claim of asylum should not give a foreign national a ticket to settle in the interior of our country.

Nor should the legal immigration system have policies such as the diversity lottery and chain migration; instead, the immigration system should be merit-based; favor assimilation, not mass migration; and be geared toward benefiting the wages of working-class Americans.

So DeSantis sounds like an immigration patriot.

But there’s the Florida’s powerful Cuban lobby. Cubans notoriously push for immigration policies to benefit their narrow ethnic interests. Cuban Republicans such as Mario Diaz-Balart and Maria Salazar aggressively push to reward foreigners and import more of them.

They’re a powerful force in the state. Sunshine State Republicans tread lightly around them.

DeSantis has deferred to the Cuban lobby before on immigration, not least in the unimpressive way he handled Florida’s influx of illegal aliens. Last year, he vowed to bus migrants out of the state. He famously shipped 50 migrants to Martha’s Vineyard. But those migrants came from Texas—not his own state.

And he failed to follow up with more such flights, leaving the migrants he planned to ship out in Florida.

They stayed put because most are Cubans; his administration vowed to allow them to stay in the Sunshine State. The flight was just theater and the subsequent busings never materialized.

And DeSantis responded lukewarmly to the continuing surge of Cuban illegals washing ashore, for instance, in the Florida Keys. Despite those numbers hitting record highs, all he’s done is mobilize the National Guard, then issue a news release about it. He refused to elaborate despite the leftist Mainstream Media’s pressing him for details.

He did, of course, say that he supports Cuban immigration. “Florida has a long history of helping refugees, including Cubans and others fleeing communist regimes, find support after they arrive in the United States,” he said earlier this year. This doesn’t sound like a hardline position [DeSantis tested on immigration as he weighs 2024 candidacy, by Steve Peoples et al., Associated Press, January 12, 2023].

And that is nothing new. “[Cubans] have a hundred-times stronger case for political persecution leaving a communist dictatorship than the other migrants who are coming across the border, who are basically coming across the border because they want more economic opportunity,” he said in 2021 [Ron DeSantis Goes All-in on Cuba Fight Ahead of 2024 Decision, by Adrian Carrasquillo, Newsweek, July 20, 2021].

That weakness for illegal Cubans could undermine any serious attempt at immigration patriotism.

DeSantis knows the appearance of immigration patriotism makes for good Republican politics. He says the right things when he addresses illegal immigration, and proposes strong actions to deal with it.

But he must take the next step and directly call for an end to mass legal immigration—and stop Hispandering to Cubans by looking the other way as boatloads of Cuban illegals land on Florida’s beaches.

But that, of course, would require him to risk the Cuban Lobby’s fury.

Yet that’s the bold action that GOP voters across America will appreciate and reward.

DeSantis must decide whether to make that jump. In comparison, the abortion issue is frankly secondary.

Washington Watcher II [Email him] is an anonymous DC insider.

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