PENSACOLA, Fla. (WFLA) — Gov. Ron DeSantis spoke at the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office in Pensacola, discussing immigration issues. Signage at the event read “Biden’s Border Crisis.” The governor was in Pensacola to sign legislation, Senate Bill 1808, an immigration law passed in the legislature this year.

Flanked by a variety of law enforcement officers, DeSantis discussed issues at the southern border, and his concerns regarding the current federal immigration and economic policies. He was joined by Florida Highway Patrol Director Col. Gene Spaulding, and Florida Department of Law Enforcement Interim Commissioner Mark Glass.

“We recognize that Jan. 20, 2021 also marked a period where this country under Joe Biden was going to open up the southern border,” DeSantis said, moving from economic concerns to immigration. “What we have seen in the year and a half during this administration is over three million people illegally cross the U.S.-Mexico border. The most recent month was the biggest numbers than anyone has ever seen.”

DeSantis said illegal immigrants were coming from all over the world, including other continents.

“You’ve had people all over know that if they just get to the southern border, that you come in, they’re just going to release you into society,” DeSantis said. “What has that gotten us? It’s gotten us record human trafficking, record sex trafficking, and record drug trafficking.”

He said the fact that fentanyl was now the leading cause of death in the U.S. was due to the drug being transported illegally over the border and saying that Mexican drug cartels were taking advantage of, and hurting a lot of people while “eating our lunch.” DeSantis said Biden’s policies as president were bad policies, and the result was “in line with the intent” of opening up the border, and that the policies were failing.

“All of that?” DeSantis said. “That’s with Title 42 still being in place. He wants to take that away. They let people come in illegally. They don’t care about COVID shots, or anything like that. But Americans wanting to do, there’s parts of this country where they still have mandates on. They treat people coming illegally almost better than American citizens in some respects, it’s insane.”

The governor warned that the end of Title 42 would mean the border crisis builds up even more, beyond “anything we’ve ever seen,” saying Americans would see 18,000 additional illegal immigrants, daily, should Title 42 be repealed. DeSantis said that would be equal to more than 6.5 million illegal aliens every year.

“That’s more population than 33 states in this country,” DeSantis said. “So, we have gotta put a stop to this. We’re not a border state. People say ‘why are you doing stuff like…?’ Since I became governor we finally banned sanctuary cities in Florida. We’ve taken steps to protect the people of Florida.”

DeSantis said the state was winning its federal lawsuit against the current “Biden catch-and-release” immigration policy. He said it couldn’t just be left up to border states like Texas to handle immigration problems, as the migrants went to communities “all across our country” and that schools and health care facilities would be “overwhelmed” by the impacts across the country.

The governor said he would be taking three different actions to combat immigration-related issues in Florida. First, DeSantis said the state had already formed a task force to deal with trafficking and crime concerns focused on illegal immigrants. He said seven illegal aliens have already been arrested for smuggling and drug trafficking.

“They were able to recover off of these illegal aliens, enough fentanyl to kill 2,000 people in the state of Florida, so we do not want this in our state and we are going to react very strongly against that” DeSantis said. “The second thing we are doing is we have today filed a petition with the Florida Supreme Court, requesting an order to impanel a statewide grand jury to examine international human smuggling networks that bring illegal aliens across the southern border and ultimately to states like Florida.”

He said the jury would examine how the networks violate Florida’s laws, and how the organizations worked to smuggle minors across the border illegally.

“Grand jury would also investigate the methods these smugglers use to transport so-called unaccompanied alien children across the southern border, and any criminal activity associated with these organizations,” DeSantis said, as well as investigating local governments that are “aiding this smuggling scheme” by violating state law against sanctuary jurisdictions.

DeSantis said he would be signing Senate Bill 1808, to “protect Floridians from Biden’s border crisis.” He said the bill would target and penalize contractors that are employed by the federal government, that “dump illegal aliens” in Florida, making them ineligible for contracts or tax gains working with the state of Florida. “The bill also requires law enforcement agencies operating with county detention facilities to enter written agreements with ICE” that identify illegal aliens who “do not belong in the United States.”

As previously reported, SB 1808 says a “Sanctuary policy” means a law, policy, practice, procedure, or custom adopted or allowed by a state entity or local governmental entity which prohibits or impedes a law enforcement agency from complying with 8 U.S.C. s. 1373 or which prohibits or impedes a law enforcement agency from communicating or cooperating with a federal immigration agency so as to limit such law enforcement agency in, or prohibit the agency from complying with immigration enforcement efforts.

In the bill’s text, those efforts are described as:

  • Complying with an immigration detainer
  • Complying with a request from a federal immigration agency to notify the agency before release of an inmate or detainee in custody by law enforcement
  • Providing federal immigration agencies access to an inmate for interview
  • Participating in programs or agreements authorized by the Immigration and Nationality Act
  • Providing federal immigration agencies with an inmate’s incarceration status or release date
  • Providing information to a state entity on the status of an inmate or detainee

By law under SB 1808, if passed, Florida law enforcement agencies operating a county detention facility would also be required to enter into a 287(g) agreement with ICE, meaning they would agree to have specific officers within a local agency handle immigration enforcement along with ICE.

While discussing immigration policy, DeSantis said he wanted strong borders, and said that a “core attribute of sovereignty” was controlling the border. “A country can control its borders. If you are a legitimate sovereign, then that border means something. It means you can determine who comes and who doesn’t.”

Additional speakers including a State Attorney for Florida’s 1st District, and law enforcement officials spoke as well, thanking DeSantis for his efforts and support in combatting illegal immigration and its effects on Florida, calling him a “governor of action.”

During the question and answer session, following his signing of SB 1808, DeSantis said most of the illegal immigrants being bussed into Florida were coming in through northwest Florida, calling the panhandle “ground zero” for the entry point. He said immigrants “wanted to bring the fentanyl” to cities like Tampa and Miami as well, making it a statewide issue.

“Don’t let anyone tell you that the only people affected by illegal immigration are the border towns,” DeSantis said.

Referring to the recent election of a Republican in a Texan border town, the first to win election there in “100 years,” according to DeSantis, he said the border towns were overrun by the failure to maintain the border.

“When you’re talking about millions of people, that’s like bringing in multiple cities, and just dumping them into the country, I mean it’s a lot of people, and the sheer numbers are very problematic,” DeSantis said.

Responding to a question about First Lady Casey DeSantis, the governor said she and their family were doing well.

DeSantis said, in response to questions over the effect of SB 1808, that buses of migrants had not come in to Florida recently, but that ones that had foreign nationals which had been stopped all had migrants with visas to do agricultural work.

“But my fear is that they’re just going to start loading people on buses and just sending them everywhere,” DeSantis said. Talking about charter flights for minors, a federal program, DeSantis said the program was being abused. “If you see a big bus, that’s going to be an easy thing to investigate right off the bat,” but when migrants were being brought in in normal cars, it was harder to “interdict” without prior intelligence.

The governor said that under Biden, as compared to former president Donald Trump, illegal immigrants released from custody after serving a sentence for a criminal offense conviction were being released back into the United States, rather than sent home or deported.

“It’s really reckless to be doing the release of even criminal aliens in the United States,” DeSantis said, as explanation for the legislation over banning sanctuary cities. “We obviously banned that and we’re fighting to see if any of them are trying to work with these non-profits to circumvent that. But the reality is that right now we have a sanctuary federal government.”

DeSantis said that from the “president on down,” federal officials were “violating their oath of office with their reckless open border policies. So today, Florida fights back.”