Posted on June 27, 2023

DeSantis Pitches Crackdown on Illegal Immigration in First Major Policy Proposal of His Campaign

Kit Maher and Steve Contorno, CNN, June 26, 2023

In his first major policy rollout of his 2024 presidential campaign, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday proposed a sweeping crackdown on illegal immigration, including sending the US military to the border and mass detention and deportation of undocumented people.

DeSantis would also end birthright citizenship and build a wall at the southern border, resurfacing two ideas once championed by his chief rival for the GOP nomination, Donald Trump.

The immigration platform as written offers a harsh approach toward the country’s undocumented population and the southern border. Described by DeSantis, though, the execution would be even more severe and would test the legal boundaries that have long defined who has the right to be in the United States and how the government can address those who do not.

Speaking here in Eagle Pass on Monday, DeSantis said he would allow the use of deadly force against people who attempt to cross into the US by cutting through border structures. He agreed with a man in the audience who likened the flow of undocumented migrants to “an act of war” that would require a military response. DeSantis also proposed giving states the power to “declare an invasion” and deport people on their own.

US courts have repeatedly ruled that regulating immigration is a federal responsibility. That principle was seemingly affirmed last week in part when the US Supreme Court sided 8-1 against Texas and Louisiana in their lawsuit over the Biden administration’s immigration arrest and deportation guidelines.


Through more relentless and austere immigration policies – including blocking most asylum cases, forcing people to remain in Mexico while their cases are reviewed and threatening harsh punishments for illegal entrants – DeSantis insists he can slow the flow of migrants into the US, a promise that will challenge historical precedent.


DeSantis’ early emphasis on immigration as a GOP presidential candidate is the latest attempt by the Florida governor to seize one of the defining issues of Trump’s political playbook as his own.


Trump, as a candidate in 2016, famously vowed to build a wall at the southern border and have Mexico pay for it. He ended his first term having constructed about 100 miles of new wall, the majority of which replaced previous construction. Trump also said he would end so-called birthright citizenship, but ran into the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution, which grants citizenship to all persons “born or naturalized in the United States.” He has revived the promise once again in his campaign to win back the White House.

DeSantis in his policy plan suggests that the plain reading of the 14th Amendment is “inconsistent with the original understanding” and says he would “force the courts and Congress to finally address the failed policy,” though he doesn’t elaborate how.


DeSantis also said he would end the so-called “catch and release” policy that allows some non-violent individuals to live in the United States while they await a court hearing on their immigration and asylum claims. Instead, DeSantis’ proposal calls for the detention of undocumented people until their hearing date, a policy that would likely lead to tens of thousands of people held by the US government for an indefinite amount of time.

DeSantis is also vowing to deport “criminal aliens.” His proposal did not say if a “criminal alien” includes anyone who is not in the US legally or undocumented individuals convicted of a crime while here. DeSantis would also deport people who overstay their visas. According to the Department of Homeland Security, about 850,000 foreign visitors overstayed their authorized stay just in 2022.

DeSantis also vowed to hold Mexican drug cartels accountable by authorizing sanctions on leaders and other entities, as well as strengthening penalties for those who traffic fentanyl and declaring them “transnational criminal organizations.”

“If the Mexican government drags its feet, DeSantis will reserve the right to operate across the border to secure our territory from Mexican cartel activities. If the Mexican government won’t stop cartel drug manufacturing, DeSantis will surge resources to the Navy and the Coast Guard and block precursor chemicals from entering Mexican ports,” the proposal reads.

While speaking in Maverick County, Texas, on Monday, he went further, saying his administration would authorize law enforcement to use deadly force against cartel operatives and migrants believed to be involved in illegal drug trafficking that break through the border wall.


In addition, DeSantis will impose penalties on sanctuary jurisdictions that “try to thwart federal immigration law” by cutting off “hundreds of millions of dollars in grants to them.”