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Florida National Guard Deployment to the Keys Is Far From a Political Stunt

Townhall Media/Julio Rosas

Governor Ron DeSantis (R) ordering the deployment of aviation assets in the Florida National Guard to the Keys has caused some controversy as liberals once again are accusing him of using excessive force toward illegal immigrants.

"We have seen Governor DeSantis do political stunts. That is how he perceives to fix this issue from Florida," White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said at a press briefing last week. "We're talking about people coming from countries who are dealing with political strife, who are dealing with issues where they're trying to find asylum. And he treats them like pawns."

"So we have called that out, over and over again. And we will continue to do that," she added.

"Big Daddy DeSantis deploys National Guard — hopefully the only troops he'll ever lead" was a column run by the Miami-Herald. (The author seemed to forget DeSantis was an officer in the Navy.)

On my recent trip to the Florida Keys, I was shown what the National Guard's mission is and how it is helping local authorities. In short, their deployment is far from a political stunt because the Keys, despite being a popular tourist destination, is a rural part of the country. Being a rural area means their emergency services are small and not equipped to handle the influx of people illegally landing on their shores.

It is worth repeating that the U.S. Coast Guard requested help from the state of Florida as sometimes their ships aren't able to cover all areas of the long island chain to intercept boats so passengers can be sent back. This is not something DeSantis went to do on his own.

The Guardsmen's mission is to deter boat landings by patrolling the ocean via helicopters. If they do come across a boat in distress, they will help coordinate rescue operations. The military deployment is only one part of a multifaceted approach to handling the increase in illegal boat landings. While the Guard is in the air, the Florida Highway Patrol and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement are on the ground providing support to Border Patrol and the Monroe County Sheriff's Office.

"The response to DeSantis' help has been wildly political. If they were serious about wanting to stop what is going on, they would welcome the help and coordinate with the state with a game plan," a former Border Patrol agent stationed in the Keys told Townhall.

"The effect on the local population can be measured by having the National Park in the Tortugas shut down to visitors for a few days, hurting the tourism industry. The local sheriff department is tied up assisting Border Patrol and other agencies guarding people in the landings and helping any way they can. I'm sure it unnerves people to just find people swimming to shore and/or landing on their docks and canals. But most people in the keys understand what is going on," the agent added. 

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