Florida Highway Troopers are on patrol — in Texas. Why did Florida Governor Ron DeSantis send Florida officials to Texas, and how does this tie into his approach to immigration?
Declaring a State of Emergency
In 2023, Ron DeSantis started the year by declaring a state of emergency related to illegal immigration.
In January 2023, the governor called in the Florida National Guard and issued an executive order that directed state agencies to help patrol the water around the Florida Keys after roughly 500 Cubans and 130 Haitians arrived on shore in the last week of 2022, as reported by the Tampa Bay Times.
Funding for the efforts came from an “Emergency Preparedness and Response Fund” that gave DeSantis $500 million to use at his discretion to deal with emergencies.
DeSantis’s $500 Million Emergency Fund
DeSantis received the emergency fund in February 2022 when Florida legislators passed a bill that gave DeSantis direct access to $500 million he could use in times of emergency. The fund removed the need for Florida state legislators to be involved with and review how the money is used.
As of July 2023, DeSantis had spent at least $15.2 million of the fund to address immigration issues.
According to reporting by the Tampa Bay Times, $4.5 million was used to support the Florida National Guard’s response to a state of emergency DeSantis declared in January 2023, and $10.7 million was used to respond to a separate state of emergency he declared back in 2021.
This spending is in addition to another $3.3 million DeSantis spent — in Texas.
Spending Millions on Immigration in Texas
Not all of the emergency funding has been spent in Florida. In June 2023, DeSantis used $3.3 million of the emergency fund to cover the cost of sending resources to the southern border in Texas.
After Texas Governor Greg Abbott requested assistance from other states to help support border security efforts in his state, Florida and nine other states responded to his call.
DeSantis announced that he would send over 1,100 assets to Texas. Resources included 101 Florida Highway Patrol Troopers, 200 Florida Department of Law Enforcement Officers, 20 Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Officers, and 800 Florida National Guard Soldiers.
Florida officials were sent to Texas and given “the same arrest and law enforcement powers, rights, and privileges while operating within the state limits of Texas as are ordinarily afforded law enforcement forces of the State of Texas,” records show.
It’s reported that the efforts will cost Florida $3.3 million. In most cases, states are reimbursed when sending emergency assistance to other states, but Abbott requested assisting states to “absorb associated costs with this mission in support of the entire country,” per reports.
The situation isn’t the first time DeSantis has spent millions on immigration in Texas. In 2021, DeSantis sent Florida law enforcement officers and equipment to the border in Texas. The cost is estimated to have been around $1.6 million.
The DeSantis administration also reportedly spent at least $615,000 in Texas in September 2022 when his administration chartered planes to take migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. The funds to pay for the transportation were taken from a $12 million state budget set aside to transport unauthorized migrants out of Florida — although the migrants were removed from Texas, not Florida.
Success or Scrutiny at the Southern Border?
There is little reported about what Florida personnel at the Southern border are doing or responsible for. The DeSantis administration says Florida’s support has helped Texas deal with the crisis at the border. Yet, Florida’s involvement in Texas has also come under some scrutiny.
Reports of mistreatment of immigrants at the border have brought questions as to the involvement of Florida’s officials.
Also in September, a video of a Florida Highway Patrol officer went viral after it was posted to TikTok. In the video, an officer in a Florida Highway Patrol vehicle is seen stopping a 36-year-old man and asking him for identification in Texas. The man informs the Florida officer that Texas law only requires individuals to show their ID to a police officer under certain conditions, which were not met during the interaction. The Florida officer eventually drove away. It is an incident that critics say highlights the confusion of having Florida officers acting in another state.
Talk to an Experienced Immigration Attorney
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