Florida Governor Ron DeSantis desperately wants to be president. But with former President Donald Trump continuing to vastly squash him in the GOP primary polls, DeSantis’ strategy has been to try to one-up him on cruelty and racism, particularly on immigration — a very high bar to clear. Despite DeSantis’ ancestor nearly getting barred from U.S. entry due to restrictionist policy, he’s become one of the most vociferous and extreme anti-immigrant politicians in the nation. That has included a transportation stunt using vulnerable migrants as political props and a “show me your papers” that has drawn massive backlash in the state. “His leap to far-right extremism in the name of his political aspirations has been startling to see,” America’s Voice Political Associate Yuna Oh previously wrote in a 2023 post, “Ron DeSantis Imagines a United States Without Immigration.”
Here is what you need to know about Ron DeSantis’ so-called immigration and border plan:
- Upholds white nationalist conspiracy theory that immigrants are a literal “invasion”: DeSantis’ plan leads with the white nationalist conspiracy theory that children and families at the southern border are an actual invasion. “No excuses: stop the invasion,” the plan reads. This conspiracy theory has been linked to a number of domestic terror attacks, including in El Paso, where a white supremacist mass shooter murdered 23 people and wounded 22 others in August 2019. But despite this history, DeSantis has made extremism central to his immigration plan, echoing white nationalist messaging at a June 2023 campaign event previewing his agenda. Of course, his policies don’t advance any real solutions for our broken immigration system. Instead, they are all just ugly and unworkable anti-immigrant red meat to keep the MAGA base inflamed by advancing false and dangerous white nationalist rhetoric that has a mounting body count.
- Endorses deadly violence at the southern border: In his relentless effort to define himself as an nativist extremist for GOP primary audiences, DeSantis has called for violence at our border with Mexico. “If cartels are trying to run product into this country, they’re going to end up stone-cold dead,” DeSantis told a GOP crowd in Iowa, which disturbingly applauded the line. When later questioned by a reporter on how he’d know who to target, DeSantis said he would know by just looking at them. This is chilling. DeSantis is not just calling for extreme racial profiling, he’s campaigning on explicit calls for deadly violence and opening the door to racist vigilantism. The southern border is already a graveyard for an untold number of desperate migrants who’ve tragically died, and continue to die, attempting to cross into the United States. DeSantis is now calling for even more violent deaths at the borderlands, this time at the hands of the U.S. officers.
- Seeks to continue building Trump’s wasteful and ineffective border wall: DeSantis’ plan seeks to continue building former President Donald Trump’s expensive and useless wall, pledging to “use every dollar available” as president “and every dollar he can squeeze out of Congress to get it done.” Nevermind that the wall actually began as a racist chant almost eight years ago during Trump’s first campaign. It’s now a top but deeply unserious Republican “policy” idea, and one that’s been felled by heavy winds, sliced through by $100 saws available at commercial hardware stores, and breached thousands of times. Repairs have cost nearly $3 million as of 2022. DeSantis says he’ll further militarize peaceful border communities by deploying the military “until the wall is built.” This means the military will be stationed there indefinitely, because building a wall along the entirety of the nearly 2,000 mile border and its rugged terrain is impossible. Don’t expect improvements under indefinite military deployment either, with studies showing that “border militarization has not been able to deter migration, but instead to create more vulnerability,” according to National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.
- Pledges to end birthright citizenship: DeSantis seeks to fulfill the white supremacist dream to end the constitutional guarantee of citizenship to children born of undocumented immigrants in the United States. “We will take action to end the idea that the children of illegal aliens are entitled to birthright citizenship if they are born in the United States,” his plan claims. While his promise to end birthright citizenship is legally dubious, it nevertheless encapsulates the GOP’s ongoing descent towards extremism. This push to change the citizenship standard enshrined in the 14th Amendment would put DeSantis (and other Republicans including Trump) on the wrong side of the Dred Scott decision and a Reconstruction amendment adopted after the Civil War to codify the citizenship of freed African-Americans. Not to mention that the DeSantis campaign has not said what will happen to U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants should the 14th amendment cease. Is he proposing creating generations of stateless children?
- Seeks to nationalize Florida’s costly and cruel “show me your papers” law: DeSantis’ plan also seeks to nationalize the state’s S.B. 1718 law, an anti-immigrant measure that has hit communities economically and sparked massive backlash across multiple cities. The law goes so far as to jail Floridians for transporting an undocumented person into the state, even if it’s a loved one. S.B. 1718 was drawing blowback even before its July implementation, when viral videos showed worksites devoid of employees. Since then, immigrant workers have fled the state entirely, while thousands of others have protested across multiple cities. Many business owners also shut down for a day in solidarity with immigrant workers, who are essential in agriculture, construction, and hurricane recovery. Experts believe the fiscal damage from DeSantis’ law could hit more than $12 billion in a year. “Six industries, including construction, agriculture and services, employ an estimated 391,000 undocumented workers, or about 10% of workers in those sectors,” NBC News said. Florida Republicans have begrudgingly admitted the law is hurting the state. During a June community hearing, GOP lawmakers who voted for the law said it was meant to be a “political bill,” and urged workers to stay in the state.