JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (WFLA) — Gov. Ron DeSantis spoke at a hangar at Craig Municipal Airport at to discuss border security. Signage at the event read “Biden’s Border Crisis.”

He said current border policies and recent response to Chinese spy balloons from the federal government were “humiliating” for the United States. DeSantis’ Jacksonville event was the first time he’s been in public since visiting a variety of cities and states to talk about support for law enforcement.

The last time DeSantis spoke in Florida, he announced an expansion of the state’s opioid response programs in Destin. In similar fashion on Thursday, DeSantis drew attention to the dangers of the fentanyl “made in China.”

Then, turning to the main focus of the event, DeSantis brought up flights in September that Florida paid for to move nearly 50 migrants to Martha’s Vineyard, Mass. from San Antonio, Texas, using funds set aside that were appropriated in the budget for moving migrants out of Florida.

In February’s special legislative session, a repeal and replacement of the program was passed and signed into law by DeSantis amid an influx of migrants to the Florida Keys.

Discussing catch and release programs, DeSantis said the Martha’s Vineyard flights would “keep going as long as they need to go,” criticizing having “hundreds of people dumped in Southern Florida.”

Referring back to previous legislation about government contracts with companies or facilities that “facilitate people coming through Mexico” to Florida, and preventing state business from occurring in partnership with those groups or businesses. DeSantis said the state would be moving to “beef up” employment verification efforts for migrant workers. He also successfully petitioned to empanel a statewide grand jury for investigation of migration issues.

For the day’s proposal, DeSantis said the state would “do everything” in its power to “protect the people in Florida from what’s going on at the border and the border crisis.”

He said the legislature would work to:

  • Increase penalties for human smuggling to a third degree felony, and a second degree felony for aggravating circumstances
  • Each individual transported, concealed, or harbored will count as a separate offense
  • Those transported will be detained as material witnesses
  • Expand efforts for employment verification of migrant workers, require all Florida employers to use E-Verify
  • Prevent local governments from issuing ID cards for “illegal aliens” and “invalidate” said cards from those issued out of state
  • Require voters to affirm U.S. citizenship to vote, under pain of perjury to prevent non-citizens from voting illegally

DeSantis said “if you hold people accountable they won’t do this,” continuing and saying that there were “enough people that want to come from these blue states, we can’t also take everybody from other countries illegally.”

A release from the governor’s office after the event more concretely noted the proposal’s points.

  • Make it a third degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison, a $5,000 fine, and five years of probation, to knowingly transport, conceal, or harbor an illegal alien within or into the state;
  • Make it a second degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000, if the illegal alien is younger than 18 years old; and
  • Specify that a person commits a separate offense for each individual transported, concealed, or harbored and allow transported individuals to be detained by law enforcement as material witnesses.
  • Invalidates all out-of-state licenses to unauthorized aliens, requires those registering to vote to affirm they are United States citizens and legal residents of Florida, prevents unauthorized immigrants from being admitted to practice law, and eliminates out-of-state tuition fee waivers for undocumented immigrant students
  • The proposal requires hospitals to collect data on the immigration status of patients and the costs to provide care to illegal aliens and regularly report the data to the Governor and Legislature

Then he introduced other speakers, including Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Mark Glass and the mother of a man killed in a car accident by a twice-deported migrant. Both praised DeSantis’ efforts to improve safety in Florida.

Another speaker described harrowing details of being attacked in her own home by who she says was a migrant in Florida without lawful authorization. She said DeSantis and his “team” were defending all Floridians, not just those with the same political views.

DeSantis returned to the podium after, taking a few questions from the crowd. The first question centered on Remain in Mexico policies recently renewed by President Joe Biden’s administration.

The governor highlighted Florida’s lawsuit against the Biden administration for catch and release programs, saying they were “basically nullifying existing law and just granting parole to everybody,” which DeSantis said was not in line with how federal law works.

“It’s sad that they’ve let in five-plus illegal, million, illegal aliens just over a two year period. I’d like to see them take steps to stop that,” DeSantis said, taking aim at asylum processes and saying that economic migrants didn’t meet the requirements, only coming to the U.S. for job opportunities, and not safety.

“If he’s going to run again, this is a massive problem for him. And I think that maybe they’re wising up about that. You can’t defend the borders of your own country? That’s kind of like your primary job,” DeSantis said. He described the current Democratic party as one for open borders and against enforcement of immigration law. “They oppose E-Verify because their view is you don’t have a right to tell a foreign national that they can’t come illegally. It’s insane their ideology, but it’s basically woke ideology run amok.”

He said by comparison, Sen. Blaise Ingoglia (R-Spring Hill) was a “rule of law first” Republican. The next question was focused more on what will happen in the main legislative session in March.

With supermajorities in both chambers, DeSantis said the prospect of passing more adequate bills aimed at his legislative priorities was better.

“We ended up with a compromised version, that was inadequate” referring to immigration policy in the last session, “We had a lot on the agenda in the last legislative session. We got a lot done, probably more than we’ve ever done, but I also didn’t see the great prospects of success on some of these issues with that legislative configuration,” DeSantis said.

Now, he said the legislature’s supermajority of Republican lawmakers means will “make a difference” and that his policy goals should “be a no brainer,” but said that those who disagreed should speak their mind.

“I think the problem that voters have,” DeSantis said. “With some of these Republicans, and you see it a lot in Washington too, they campaigned saying they’re going to do all of these things, and then when they get up there, they don’t want to do it, and that’s the problem.”

Another question came about the state administration’s change of policy for events at the state capitol. DeSantis said the change to make events “align with state agency missions” was not his directive, but said he was supportive of people speaking their minds.

“You don’t have a right to hijack and do like a heckler’s veto and to stop the functioning of government,” DeSantis said.

Answering a question about the proposed policy changes related to immigration, DeSantis said that changes to education rules, Florida worked hard to make college affordable for Floridians, and that to keep tuition affordable, only U.S. citizens should be able to benefit.

“Why would we subsidize non-U.S. citizens, when we want to make sure we can keep it affordable for our own people,” DeSantis said.

Then DeSantis was asked about recently filed defamation legislation by Rep. Alex Andrade (R-Escambia).

The governor said outlets were “drive-by media” and there was no way to debunk false narratives, so the state government wanted to ensure there were opportunities for private Florida residents to contest those stories.

He said criticisms of education policy, alleged book bans, and media coverage, that most of it was “a hoax.” DeSantis criticized creation of “narratives” by “lefty media” over empty book shelves and a recent NBC News report saying that the governor did not want Florida students to learn about slavery, calling it false. The governor pointed to Florida law requiring that those topics be taught and criticized “corporate media,” saying there were catalogued examples of “media lies.”

A presentation on these examples is coming soon, according to DeSantis.