DeSantis activates National Guard as hundreds of Cuban migrants arrive in Florida

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday activated the Florida National Guard to respond to an influx of hundreds of mostly Cuban migrants arriving by boat to southern Florida, increasing long-running tensions between the GOP governor and Biden administration over immigration.

The decision comes at a moment complicated by broader, border-focused immigration fights that DeSantis, a likely 2024 presidential candidate, has long-used to attack the Biden administration. But the governor’s hardline immigration message in this case is complicated because the migrants landing in and near the Florida Keys are mostly Cubans, who are a politically powerful bloc of voters in South Florida that have overwhelmingly supported him.

“As the negative impacts of Biden’s lawless immigration policies continue unabated, the burden of the Biden administration’s failure falls on local law enforcement who lack the resources to deal with the crisis,” DeSantis said in a Friday afternoon statement. “When Biden continues to ignore his legal responsibilities, we will step into support our communities.”

Hundreds of Cuban migrants fleeing the island nation have come ashore in the Florida Key over the past few days, a continuation of the uptick in those making the perilous 100-mile voyage. Since Oct. 1, authorities have stopped 4,153 Cuban migrants at sea, a huge uptick from the 838 who were intercepted in fiscal year 2021, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

The Keys have been inundated with more than 500 Cuban immigrants over the past two days, something DeSantis says has been “particularly burdensome” on local officials. A spokeswoman for Monroe County, which includes the Florida Keys, did not return a request seeking comment.

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