tags: Press Releases

Reminder that Nativist Politics of Ron DeSantis and GOP Relies on Falsehoods and Stereotypes

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Vanessa Cárdenas: “Anti-immigrant attacks and nativism are a core part” of DeSantis’ political brand “no matter the potential consequences or the distortions of the truth involved”

Washington, DC – Much like Gov. Greg Abbott in Texas, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is trying to fear-monger over immigrants to burnish his political brand among GOP base voters. It’s cheap and cynical politics that is both wasteful for state taxpayers and dangerous for those being targeted by his continued anti-immigrant stunts, as a new investigative story reminds us.

A Miami Herald story by Ana Ceballos, “DeSantis touted police action against illegal migrants. Most arrests were legal residents,” examines one of the governor’s many politicized anti-immigrant stunts – in this case a crime sweep sold as targeting “illegal aliens” and “fentanyl” which, in fact, mostly targeted legal residents and found no linkages between immigrants and drugs: 

“Inside a packed room at the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office in June, Gov. Ron DeSantis talked about the many ways his administration is trying to “keep illegals out of the state of Florida” in response to President Joe Biden’s immigration policies.

He highlighted a state-led law enforcement operation, which took place June 7-9 in four counties in Northwest Florida. When talking about outcomes, the governor’s message was unmistakable: The state was doing its part to combat illegal immigration because it had arrested several ‘illegal aliens.’ ‘They were able to recover these illegal aliens and enough fentanyl to kill off 2,000 people in the state of Florida,’ DeSantis said at the press conference in Pensacola.

What DeSantis did not mention is that the vast majority of the 22 arrests were not related to immigration but rather tied to men and women who live in the country legally. DeSantis also implied that undocumented migrants had been arrested on drug-related crimes, when none were, according to arrest records provided by the Florida Highway Patrol and two of the four sheriff’s offices that participated in the state’s effort.

…The remarks illustrated just how much political weight DeSantis is giving to the issue of immigration as he seeks reelection and is widely considered a leading contender to challenge former President Donald Trump for the 2024 GOP nomination.

…Since taking office in 2019, DeSantis has pushed for measures aligned with a hard-line immigration platform … In the last two years, the governor agreed to spend at least $1.6 million to send state law enforcement officers to the southern border in Texas, cracked down on Florida shelters that care for migrant kids, and asked the Florida Supreme Court to approve a request for a statewide grand jury to investigate immigration-related crimes such as the smuggling of undocumented children. And he launched the strike-force operation, which is part of a broader partisan effort promoted by the Republican Governors Association.”

According to Vanessa Cárdenas, Deputy Director for America’s Voice: 

“As Ron DeSantis positions for the national GOP stage, observers should be clear-eyed about his dangerous playbook. Anti-immigrant attacks and nativism are a core part of his political brand and cynical calculations – no matter the potential consequences or the distortions of the truth involved.

Just look at this Miami Herald story, highlighting one of DeSantis’ many nativist stunts. The sweep netted mostly legal residents, meaning it likely gave a green light to ugly stereotyping and racial profiling. It fits into a larger GOP pattern of how nativism and anti-immigrant fear-mongering can have real-world consequences, often dangerous for people of color whether they are US citizens, here legally or are not immigrants at all. 

Remember that earlier this year in Florida, right wing and Republican misinformation over so-called “ghost flights” led to a potentially dangerous situation at an Orlando hotel when dozens of protesters showed up, only to find the guests entering the hotel who had been ‘caught’ in a viral video were H2-A nursery workers in Florida on visas to help the economy. And across the country, Republican candidates are leaning into “invasion” and “white replacement” conspiracy falsehoods despite the demonstrated violent impact in places like Pittsburgh, El Paso, and Buffalo where well-armed mass murderers cited the invasion lie as their justification to pull the triggers of their weapons, killing mainly U.S. citizens or others legally present. The brand of ugly politics practiced by Ron DeSantis and too many Republicans is divisive, a distraction from real issues, and dangerous to those he demonizes.”