White House blasts DeSantis for deploying National Guard to deal with Cuban migrants

WASHINGTON — In the midst of implementing its own controversial new program for dealing with the flow of migrants across the U.S.-Mexico border, the White House on Wednesday criticized Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida for deploying the National Guard to handle the arrival of undocumented immigrants from Cuba.

“We are talking about people who are coming from countries, who are dealing with political strife,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said at Wednesday’s press briefing. “They’re trying to find asylum — and he’s treating them like pawns.”

She charged that DeSantis was “not dealing with the problem. He’s actually creating a problem.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks from a lectern.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at the Republican Jewish Coalition on Nov. 19 in Las Vegas. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Last week, DeSantis deployed the National Guard to deal with what his office described as an “alarming influx of migrants landing in the Florida Keys,” though it was unclear just what the Guard’s role would be.

According to the governor’s office, 300 migrants fleeing Cuba and other countries landed at Dry Tortugas National Park last week, and another 45 made landfall at Key West.

DeSantis’s office did not answer a Yahoo News request for comment. But when he deployed the Guard, the governor lambasted the White House.

“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,” he said.

The governor’s move came after President Biden announced a new “parole” plan that would allow up to 30,000 migrants per month from Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Haiti to receive asylum in the United States, provided they applied from their home countries via smartphone app, without making a perilous overland journey to the border. The plan also includes an agreement from Mexico to accept 30,000 deportees from those countries apprehended in the United States.

With reporters in the foreground, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre speaks at a briefing.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre at a briefing on Wednesday. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

In announcing his plan, Biden blamed congressional inaction for the lack of a comprehensive immigration reform plan. Although the president’s new parole plan has been criticized by progressives and conservatives alike, it reflects what the administration believes to be a humane and orderly approach to a seemingly intractable problem.

On Wednesday, the White House was content to focus on DeSantis, who has battled the Biden administration over pandemic-related measures like masking and vaccination, and whom many liberals seem to regard with the same antipathy they once reserved for the governor’s political benefactor, Donald Trump.

Immigration is emerging as a point of intense contention between the two men, who could face each other in next year’s presidential election (neither has declared his intention to run so far, but both are expected to do so).

“We’ve seen Gov. DeSantis do political stunts,” Jean-Pierre said on Wednesday. She appeared to be referencing an episode in September when DeSantis transported migrants who had entered the United States without authorization to Martha’s Vineyard, a liberal enclave.

She also accused the Florida governor of “making a mockery” of Biden’s good-faith attempts to at least partly address the migration crisis.

DeSantis is suing the Biden administration for allegedly not doing enough to stop the flow of unauthorized migrants into the United States. Proceedings in the case began earlier this week.