Ron DeSantis

Governor of Florida

Ron DeSantis, a former congressman for Florida’s 6th district, was elected governor of Florida by only a 0.4-percent margin when he first ran in 2018. But after establishing himself as a staunch opponent of COVID-19 shutdowns and mask mandates, as well as a savvy political showman on divisive cultural issues like LGBTQ education in elementary schools, he carried almost 60 percent of the vote in his landslide reelection victory in 2022. In May 2023, he announced his candidacy for the 2024 Republican nomination for president, for which he’ll have to go head-to-head against his former ally Donald Trump. 

DeSantis tends to use immigration as an area to create alignment with his base and capture media attention, rather than pursuing major policy changes. When he served as a congressman, the only piece of immigration-related legislation he sponsored was a 2015 bill that sought to bar refugees from “terrorist-controlled” countries unless they were vetted by the DHS, FBI, State Department, and Department of Defense — despite the fact that each of those agencies is already involved in vetting every refugee applicant. But the bill rode on fears that extremists were hiding among the exodus of refugees fleeing the Syrian Civil War, a panic that ratcheted up after the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris. 

More recently, DeSantis has borrowed many of his showiest immigration moves from the playbook of Texas Governor Greg Abbott. He has followed Abbott’s lead by banning “sanctuary cities” in Florida; refusing to renew the licenses of state facilities that house unaccompanied migrant children until they can be placed with family or foster care; and targeting transportation companies that contract with the federal government to relocate migrants between facilities. Most famously, DeSantis latched onto Abbott’s campaign to bus migrants to northern cities when he organized a flight that transported 50 migrants from San Antonio to Martha’s Vineyard, an island with an image as a tourist destination for wealthy Democrats. Although Florida is 900 miles away from the U.S. border with Mexico, DeSantis claimed that he recruited Venezuelan migrants in Texas to prevent them from traveling to Florida.

In May 2023, DeSantis went one step further than his Texas counterpart, signing into law a bill that expanded the state’s E-Verify work authorization mandates, overturned a 2014 measure that allowed undocumented immigrants to practice law in Florida, and required hospitals to question patients about their immigration status. Although strict, the final bill was significantly softened from an earlier version that sought to make E-Verify mandatory for all employers, and made it a felony to house, hire, or transport an undocumented immigrant. 

In the 2022 midterms, DeSantis won the approval of not just Florida’s powerful, Republican-leaning Cuban American voting bloc, but the majority of Latino voters, including historically Democratic-leaning Puerto Ricans. He also flipped multiple counties that were long seen as solidly blue. Although President Biden won in Miami-Dade county in 2020 with 53.4% of the vote, DeSantis won reelection there by 55.3%, becoming the first Republican gubernatorial candidate to win the county in two decades. Commentators have pointed to his sweeping victory as a sign that he might be able to go toe to toe with Trump for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.


DeSantis’S IDEAS

  • Border Security

    DeSantis is a vocal supporter of increased border security, including a border wall. In the summer of 2021, he sent 250 state law enforcement officers to Texas to participate in Governor Greg Abbott’s Operation Lone Star.

  • Border Wall

    DeSantis supports building a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico. While running for governor in 2018, he ran a campaign ad in which he taught his toddler to “build the wall” out of blocks.

  • Detention

    DeSantis passed a bill that required county detention facilities to cooperate with ICE immigration detention operations.

  • Immigration Courts

    While running for governor, DeSantis responded to a question about Trump’s controversial family separation policy by arguing that asylum claims should be processed within two weeks, saying, “That may mean we need to provide more immigration judges or some of those other things. Then you don’t even have the trigger to where you would even have to separate.”

  • Undocumented Population

    While running for governor, DeSantis ripped into his primary opponent for supporting the Gang of Eight bill, which would have provided a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. In 2023, he supported a bill that would have made it a felony to house, transport, or hire an undocumented immigrant, but the provision did not make it into the final draft.

  • ICE

    DeSantis passed a bill banning sanctuary cities in Florida and requiring local law enforcement to cooperate with ICE.

  • DACA

    While serving as a congressman in 2017, DeSantis tweeted his support for President Trump’s attempt to end DACA, calling it unconstitutional.

  • Asylum

    DeSantis has regularly labeled asylum seekers as “illegal immigrants.” DeSantis believes asylum claims should be processed within two weeks to disincentivize people claiming asylum in order to enter the U.S. and seek work authorization.

  • Central American Policy

    DeSantis had made statements condemning left-wing and socialist regimes in Central America. In March 2022, DeSantis denounced the Biden administration for resuming diplomatic contact with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

  • Visas

    While campaigning for governor, DeSantis promised to make E-Verify mandatory for all employers in Florida. He ultimately passed a more limited E-Verify bill that made E-Verify mandatory for government employers and private employers that contract with the state or apply for taxpayer-funded economic incentives, despite pushback from major Florida industries.

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