TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — During a Friday White House press briefing, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre repeated her commentary about Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, accusing him of improperly deploying the Coast Guard as a political stunt to respond to migrants coming to the Florida Keys.
“I’m happy to repeat what I said which is Governor DeSantis has made a mockery of– of the system and– and he has consistently and constantly, as many of you have reported, has done political stunts,” Jean-Pierre said. “[He] has not helped to address the issue but has instead decided to put the lives of migrants who are coming here for a better life at risk. And that’s what we have seen from this governor.”
During a briefing on healthcare and drug price transparency on Thursday in The Villages, DeSantis responded to Jean-Pierre’s previous comments during a short question and answer session. While Jean-Pierre accused DeSantis of improper USCG deployments, the governor had said instead that the Coast Guard had asked Florida for assistance in the Florida Keys to handle the influx of migrants.
“I think what we’ve done, we’ve been very aggressive at mitigating the damage from Biden’s disastrous border policies,” DeSantis said Thursday. “Part of it is the message that’s gone out that the rules don’t matter, just show up and you’re fine. You can’t run a country like that.”
During Friday’s White House briefing by Jean-Pierre, she continued her accusation of improper use, saying U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents had moved previous landings of migrants from Cuba out of state a week ago, pushing back on DeSantis’ claims of damage from Biden’s policies and claims that USCG needed help from Florida due to resource issues.
“Look when it comes to the Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection, they are deploying additional personnel and resources to Florida to quickly process individuals and place them in removal proceedings,” Jean-Pierre said. “I would note that the migrants from Cuba or who arrived in Florida over a week ago were processed and moved out of the state by Border Patrol within days.”
The press secretary also refocused her comments, highlighting federal action to increase access to legal migration options for those entering the U.S.
“The president has expanded safe, orderly legal pathways for migration, including for Cubans, and we continue to urge individuals to–to use those instead of risking their lives at the hands of human– human smugglers,” Jean-Pierre said. “And you heard that directly from this president just a couple of days ago on the world stage in Mexico City.”
A Friday update on the migrants in the Keys from the Florida Department of Emergency Management said that there have been approximately 40 vessels removed from Dry Tortugas and the Lower Keys, while another 250 migrant vessels still have to be taken away.
The latest update broke down current efforts and deployments across multiple agencies.
State actions include:
Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM)
- FDEM is leading the coordination of state assets for the mass migration response, including:
- Power resources to assist with power to command posts, and
- Two pallets of bottled water and 250 Meals Ready-to-Eat (MREs) to be used by responding FWC Officers for distribution to affected migrants.
Florida National Guard
- The Florida National Guard has seven aircraft on mission and has conducted 12 flights for a total of 40.5 flight hours.
- The Florida National Guard is mobilizing 100-150 National Guardsman to coordinate operational efforts with the U.S. Coast Guard and FWC aviation teams.
- The Florida National Guard will bolster FWC marine patrol to support water interdictions and ensure the safety of migrants attempting to reach Florida through the Florida Straits.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC)
- Currently, the FWC does not anticipate the need to institute any additional recreational boating restrictions in the region. For everyone’s safety, recreational boaters are cautioned to remain clear of any suspected migrant vessel and alert authorities to their location.
- If an abandoned vessel lands on private property, the property owner is not responsible for its removal. The state will remove these vessels free of charge. Report an abandoned vessel to the FWC at 888-404-3922.
- Twenty-two additional FWC officers and one mechanic are on scene to provide support throughout the Florida Keys.
- The FWC has tasked five large platform offshore patrol vessels in addition to maritime assets already in place in the Keys (40 officers and investigators and 35 vessels). Included in those assets are the 42’ vessel Fearless with three crew members and the 85’ vessel Gulf Sentry with six crew members. They are patrolling and assisting U.S. Border Patrol, U.S. Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection with migrant landings.
- FWC Aviation is conducting routine flights in support of local, state and federal partners and is coordinating with the U.S. Coast Guard, Florida National Guard and FHP air assets.
- A base camp and command posts have been established in Marathon and Key West for FWC personnel.
Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE)
- FDLE has nearly two dozen members deployed in Monroe County. A mobile command bus has been established with a workspace for those deployed.
- FDLE aviation assets are assisting with patrolling the waters.
- FDLE has partially activated the Florida Fusion Center and devoted intelligence analysts to assist with analytical reports.
- FDLE is coordinating Florida’s law enforcement response, similar to their active role in hurricanes, and is in contact with state and local partners to ensure they have the resources needed to manage the current mass migration situation.
- As migrants are more at-risk to human trafficking and other crimes, FDLE is helping to gather and provide intelligence and conducting investigations and assisting as requested by our federal, state and local partners.
- FDLE agents are assisting local law enforcement agencies with migrants so they can work other calls. FDLE agents stay with the migrants until they are transferred into the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Florida Highway Patrol (FHP)
- FHP has deployed 30 troopers, five unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), two fixed-wing aircrafts and one mobile command bus in support of ongoing operations.
Florida officials said monitoring of conditions along Florida’s coasts continues, in addition to other responses set in motion by a recent executive order from DeSantis.
- Tampa friends on sailing trip witness hundreds of Cuban refugees coming on shore
- 2 cruise ships rescue more migrants off Florida coast
- Sailboat with another 200 migrants lands in Florida Keys as ‘humanitarian crisis’ continues
- AG Moody blames border crisis on Biden’s immigration policy
In response to WFLA.com’s request for comment, Bryan Griffin, press secretary for the governor, sent comments in response, also posted on Twitter, quoting DeSantis:
“What [Florida] is doing is working. And so, I would just tell the White House, not only has the Coast Guard asked us to help, but we have no choice but to help because of your neglect and incompetence,” the quote provided said.