DeSantis Defends Migrant Flight and Announces Tax Relief Plan

Governor DeSantis speaks in Bradenton at the Anna Maria Oyster Bar
Governor DeSantis speaks in Bradenton at the Anna Maria Oyster Bar
Dawn Kitterman
BRADENTON — Florida Governor Ron DeSantis spoke at a press conference in Bradenton on Tuesday. The event was held at the Anna Maria Oyster Bar Landside on 14th Street West. A sign displayed from the governor’s podium read, "Family-Focused Tax Relief."  

The event was held on the heels of the governor recently finding himself under fire for utilizing Florida taxpayer monies to transport 48 Venezuelan migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. DeSantis dismissed much of the backlash he has received for what some are calling a "political stunt" during Tuesday's visit to Bradenton while blaming President Joe Biden's administration for poor immigration policies and economic inflation. 

DeSantis—who is seeking reelection this November and widely thought to have his sights set on a 2024 presidential run—began his speech by highlighting the most recent legislative effort to deliver tax relief to Floridians. The governor referred to the success as "the largest amount of tax relief in the history of Florida" totaling $1.2 billion. DeSantis said that while the legislature was able to deliver on record tax cuts, his administration simultaneously generated the state's largest budget surplus. The record surplus, some analysts have noted, was created in part due to a huge influx of federal coronavirus relief payments, a quickly recovering economy due to the state's push to keep businesses open during the pandemic, and higher than anticipated collections of sales tax and real estate tax. 

DeSantis also highlighted the state's unemployment numbers for August. Florida's jobless rate held steady and unchanged from July's reported 2.7 percent—one percentage point lower than the current national average. In total, 17 states had unemployment rates lower than the U.S. average in August, and all 50 states have seen jobless rates decrease from the year prior.

Tuesday's event was mainly focused on the governor's promise to bring further tax relief to Floridians—assuming he wins reelection. DeSantis levied heavy criticism on the Biden administration, blaming it for inflation and its effect on consumer prices. The governor promised 2023 session tax breaks which he estimated could save Florida residents an additional $1.1 billion. 

"You have what's coming down from D.C., you have inflation, and you saw the president," DeSantis told the crowd, "he just wants to act like it's no big deal, but in fact, it is one of the biggest issues we face—not only as Floridians but as Americans." 

DeSantis said the proposed tax relief measures announced Tuesday, combined with what was accomplished in the last session, will assist Florida families in "battling the extensive borrowing, spending, and inflation coming out of Washington D.C." 

Before announcing his plans, DeSantis acknowledged his Secretary of the Department of Economic Opportunity Dane Eagle who was in attendance, and thanked Florida State Representatives Tommy Gregory and Will Robinson who were also in attendance. 

The governor's "Family-Focused Tax Relief" plan includes numerous tax exemptions for family necessities including baby diapers, cribs, strollers, toys, pet food, and over-the-counter pet medications, among other planned exemptions. DeSantis said he had already proposed to slash all tolls in the state of Florida by 50 percent for commuters. 

"So you see this inflation, you see what it’s doing," DeSantis said, "it’s pushing up groceries, bills, pretty much everything you do. We delivered a lot of relief, but we want to do more." 

DeSantis said that while his administration and Republican-led legislature already provided the state's biggest tax relief package in Florida history, the goal next year was to do "much more than that." 

"In next year's tax relief package, we're going to work with the legislature to enact a permanent exemption on baby necessities," DeSantis said, speaking of the diapers, strollers, and baby cribs. "They will not be taxed going forward." 

DeSantis said he plans to propose a year-long tax exemption on toys and books for children 12 years and younger and a year-long tax exemption on all household items purchased for a cost of $25 or less per item. He said he also plans to initiate a year-long tax exemption on athletic equipment required for children's sports, pet food, and over-the-counter pet medications, as well as a permanent sales tax exemption for medical supplies and equipment (for humans).

The governor also promised an additional tax holiday for the fall and spring school semesters. 

DeSantis said the cuts that would take effect in 2023, if approved by the Florida Legislature, are tax breaks he and his wife wish would have been in place when their children were younger. 

Secretary of the Department of Economic Opportunity Dane Eagle also spoke from the podium at the event. Eagle said the job of the DOE is to assist the governor with advancing Florida's economy, adding that the governor's planned 2023 tax relief plans will be a huge help to parents like himself. 

"The truth of the matter is Florida is outperforming the nation in almost every measure," Eagle said, adding that people are choosing to come to Florida because of the governor's policies. 

Two Florida residents were also invited to the podium to speak, both were parents who spoke highly of DeSantis' announced tax relief for Florida families in 2023, telling the audience what a significant help it will be to their own families—before thanking the governor. 

After the speeches, the governor returned to the podium to take questions, most of which had to do with the governor's recent action to use Florida funds to charter a flight from Texas to Martha's Vineyard, carrying almost 50 Venezuelan migrants for deposit. Officials in Massachusetts say there was no coordination or prior notice of the planned transport of the migrants to their state, and attorneys of the migrants claim their clients—who were legally in the United States under asylum—were misled about the purpose of the flight and services they would receive on arrival in Massachusetts. 

DeSantis defended his decision, alleging that the migrants were being mistreated by the Biden administration. He included in his comments mentioning "fentanyl that's coming over the border that's killing Americans in record numbers." 

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and top officials with ICE's Homeland Security Investigations have said that "the most common method" of smuggling fentanyl into the country is not through illegal points of entry at the southern border, but "through U.S. ports of entry in passenger vehicles with concealed compartments or commingled with legitimate goods on tractor-trailers."

Data collected and reported by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) showed that 95 percent of all fentanyl seized by the agency in Fiscal Year 2021 occurred at a port of entry or a Border Patrol vehicle checkpoint

An NPR/Ipsos poll conducted this summer found that large numbers of Americans hold misconceptions about immigrants' role in smuggling illegal drugs into the United States. Victor M. Manjarrez Jr. the director of the Center for Law and Human Behavior at the University of Texas, El Paso, served in the Border Patrol for more than 20 years. Manjarrez told NPR that it is true that fentanyl is crossing the border—"a lot of fentanyl"—but said it is "not coming over on the backs of migrants."

The American Immigration Council analyzed every press release from CBP that mentioned attempted smuggled fentanyl over a six-month period, and reported that of the 89 seizure events CBP reported during the first 6 month period in 2022, just three involved undocumented immigrants.

DeSantis doubled down on his administration's actions on Tuesday, alleging the migrants that were flown to Martha's Vineyard were "hungry and homeless" and had "no opportunity at all." He said that their transport was voluntary and to their benefit. 

"It’s our view that the border should be secure, and we want to have Biden reinstitute policies like Remain in Mexico," DeSantis said. "But short of that, if you believe in open borders, then it's the sanctuary jurisdictions that should have to bear the brunt of the open borders." 

DeSantis said his actions provided the migrants the most "posh" sanctuary jurisdiction in the world, before adding that it was "sad" that Martha’s Vineyard "deported" them the next day. 

"They could have absorbed this, they chose not to," the governor said of Martha's Vineyard. "What it shows you is that if 50 is a burden on one of the richest places in the country, what about all of these other communities that have been overrun with hundreds or thousands?"

DeSantis said Florida officials on the border have collected intelligence that shows 30-40 percent of the individuals coming across the border are seeking to end up in Florida—though he also admitted there have been no "mass migrations" into the state. Nonetheless, DeSantis said intervening before the migrants reach Florida by transporting them to sanctuary jurisdictions is a benefit to the migrants and Florida. 

"If I could do it all from Florida I would, but if we just ignore the source, then you're going to have people trickling in—5 or 10 a day, 20 a day, I don’t know," DeSantis said. "There’s no way to track all of that because it’s on such a small scale." 

DeSantis said the state has immigration infrastructure in place thanks to the Florida legislature, which includes more than flights for migrants, and he said the program has already made an impact. He added that the efforts currently being taken—including the chartered flight that shipped migrants from Texas to Maryland—may not be the solution, but actions such as the recent transport of Venezuelan asylum seekers to Martha's Vineyard are bringing the issues around immigration to the forefront. 

Absent from the press conference in Bradenton on Tuesday was any mention by the governor—or anyone else—of the recent vote by the Manatee County Commission to name a local dog park after the governor. Manatee County Commissioners Kevin Van Ostenbridge and James Satcher attended the event. The governor did not recognize either commissioner or their attendance during his comments on Tuesday. 

Video from Tuesday's event can be replayed by clicking here.

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Reader Comments
Robert Killough
SEP 22, 2022  •  The $12,000,000 of Florida taxpayers' money used for the cruel immigrant stunt should come from his campaign funds, not our pockets! When did Florida start dealing with Texas immigration policy? Like when he sent 100 Florida State Troopers to Texas, while we have record hi-way fatalities! No solutions, just theatre.
Brett Davis
SEP 21, 2022  •  Why do the GOP think Biden and his Dems are responsible for inflation? Its a world wide event/problem. Yet, more millionaires were created over this past year, and over half in the USofA…. The GOP are spin doctors with little concern for America. They’re just in it for themselves…
Patricia Catherine Benson
SEP 21, 2022  •  Most of the tax relief is going to corporations and not individuals, as usual the Republican ploy.
NJ
SEP 21, 2022  •  Two things he won't discuss and share with Florida citizens is the continued rise of Anti Semitism & White Supremacy along with high Covid death numbers!
Cat L
SEP 21, 2022  •  It seems to be the standard that he blames others for his behavior. Not surprising, since he doesn’t seem to think of his own moves. He’s copying Trump with the American vs. American culture war. (Trump copied the Nazi party, btw. Don’t believe me? Research the marketing tactics of the Nazi party in pre-WWII Germany. He pretty much used the proverbial playbook verbatim.) He copied other Governors with the relocation of refugees, he was just more awful about it. He copies the standard tactic of dangling a carrot in the form of tax breaks if he gets re-elected, while suggesting the reason you’ll need that break is all the fault of the opposition. He’s copied the deliberately polarizing efforts of the political “herd” that willingly beats the drums of a made up “war” on other Americans. And as for “sanctuary jurisdictions that should have to bear the brunt of the open borders…" there is this thing called a map….
Christine Wright
SEP 21, 2022  •  I'm with Carol: AMOB won't see my $$ anymore What about families of teens? What about the needs of childless working folks? And he can provide this largesse because of Biden and the Democrats in Congress who passed Covid relief bills that Rick Scott voted against and told Desantis to send back. Such a slick panderer. Why not address issues that matter to all Floridians like insurance rates, housing, over-development, clean water? Stop being fooled by the culture war issues. All past administrations have moved unaccompanied minors to states across the country on "midnight flights." Why doesn't Ronnie act like a real leader and use his Ivy League education to get to the root of the immigration problem? Anyone who wants to admire and emulate these petty and callous Republican governors is truly inhuman and unAmerican.
Kenny A
SEP 21, 2022  •  How would they even know about the amount of fentanyl making it's way in through illegal points of entry? They don't even know how many people are coming in through those areas!
Geez
SEP 21, 2022  •  why weren't we notified the Gov would be at this location BEFORE the fact. I would have wanted to attend!?
Bo
SEP 21, 2022  •  Will your Sunday article be you condemning Joe Biden in the same language for shipping the immigrants to Westchester county, Jacksonville etc ?
Fran
SEP 21, 2022  •  All these tax breaks for people to have more babies and pets but no relief from skyrocketing housing prices. Pile all those crib’s and strollers and pets into your vehicle or the sidewalk, folks. Unless you’re rich, and that’s who is pandering to.
SEP 21, 2022  •  Not sure why so many people believe the migrants were here illegally. They were released by US Customs after an initial screening for asylum eligibility. Google it. When border agents encounter immigrants at the border, they question them and decide whether they have a reasonable fear of returning to their home country. If they do, they can seek asylum in the US. Immigrants who've been approved to apply for asylum are either detained or released while they await court proceedings... at this point in the process, these individuals are LEGALLY allowed to be in the US until the court dates.
Lin
SEP 21, 2022  •  These immigrants were not seeking asylum legally they are illegal immigrants crossing the border. What should be done is they should be sent back! The border should be closed. They have no idea who these people are. Thousands coming over the border everyday! Illegally! When will Americans wake up? A plane ride or a bus ride given food and water is not a bad thing. It was ok for Biden to fly them in the dark of night and no one was upset about that! Close the border!
Carol
SEP 21, 2022  •  I will no longer patronize AMOysterBar for hosting this nasty man spewing hatred. So much for his Christian values.
Randy P
SEP 21, 2022  •  The people that think this was so horrible should host a immigrant family while they get on their feet! Put your compassion where your mouth is! I’m very happy he made a statement by sending them somewhere else! If our current administration wants to turn a blind eye? Which is what they are doing then that’s where it starts! Cry me a river!
HK
SEP 21, 2022  •  This feels like one of those Oprah MEMEs... "and you get a freebie, and you get a freebie!" Why didn't he already do all this stuff why wait for 2023?
Joe Henn
SEP 21, 2022  •  The cost of a plane or bus ride is far less of a tax burden then the alternative of having them in Florida.
Jared
SEP 21, 2022  •  Ron is the best Governor we've ever had! He has done a great job!
Jim
SEP 21, 2022  •  DeSantis's tax exemptions for pet food pretty much says it all.
Nona Scott
SEP 21, 2022  •  He loses my vote every time he opens his lying trap of a mouth. His hysteria defending his deplorable action against human beings seeking asylum and here legally is pure stupidity.
Arthur Greenwood
SEP 21, 2022  •  Why would DeSantis spend our tax $$ to send migrants from TX to anywhere? Total political theater and bs. He lost my vote.


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