Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis threatened to charge the Biden administration Thursday for the cost of combating rising illegal immigration into the Florida Keys.
Speaking at an unrelated press conference, DeSantis hit back at White House officials who ripped his activation of the Florida National Guard as a political stunt.
DeSantis asserted that the overburdened US Coast Guard asked for his assistance before he signed an executive order last week directing state agencies to help stem the influx of migrants into the Sunshine State.
“Maybe we’ll send the bill to the Biden administration,” DeSantis said when asked about the White House’s comments.
Roughly 700 migrants, mostly from Cuba and Haiti, have descended on the Florida Keys in makeshift vessels in recent weeks.
DeSantis said the Coast Guard sent roughly 300 personnel to slow the arrivals, but was unable to adequately stop the flow.
“The Coast Guard is stretched so thin,” he said. “What the Coast Guard has told us is we are not going to get additional resources from the federal government. This is what we have. So we are filling gaps that the federal government should be filling.”
DeSantis said the Florida Keys are littered with abandoned vessels that often wash up near the homes of local residents, and that he has directed state agencies to clear them from the area.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre rebuked DeSantis’ approach, accusing the ascendant GOP heavyweight of using migrants as “pawns.”
“We have seen Gov. DeSantis do political stunts,” she said at a briefing Wednesday. “That is how he perceives to fix this issue from Florida.”
Jean-Pierre claimed that the migrants are often fleeing political upheaval in their home nations and have legitimate grounds for seeking asylum.
“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,” DeSantis shot back Thursday.
Roughly 4,400 migrants have arrived in Florida since August, while 8,000 more have been intercepted at sea and turned back.