PENSACOLA, Fla. (WPTV) -- Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Wednesday that Florida will allocate resources to provide help to the states of Arizona and Texas in their efforts to secure the southern border.
During a news conference at the Escambia County Sheriff's Office in Pensacola, DeSantis said Florida is the first state to provide mutual aid to Arizona and Texas, whose Republican governors sent a letter seeking help after President Joe Biden rolled back the immigration policies of former President Donald Trump.
Standing in front of a podium with a sign affixed to it that read, "Secure our border, secure our states," DeSantis was joined by Attorney General Ashley Moody and sheriffs throughout Florida.
DeSantis said the action was necessary "because of the failure of the Biden administration to secure our southern border and, indeed, to really do anything constructive about what is going on in the southern border."
In making his case for why the issue is one that impacts the safety of all Florida residents, DeSantis referenced a May incident in Martin County in which an 82-year-old woman was "raped by a criminal illegal alien."
"I mean, how disgusting?" he said. "This guy had been arrested. (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) had never -- was not willing to take him and remove him -- and so he ends up committing a dastardly act against an elderly resident in Martin County."
DeSantis said Florida has already sued the federal government for no longer honoring ICE detainers "because it's a dereliction of duty."
"The bottom line, though, is you are seeing increases in criminal activity, drug trafficking, human trafficking as a result of this failure," DeSantis said. "It is both a disaster and an emergency what is going on, and even the director of the FBI has admitted as such."
DeSantis said the Florida Highway Patrol, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and nine other sheriff's agencies in the state have already committed to sending aid "so that they could do what the federal government is either unwilling or unable to do -- secure the border."
WPTV's Meghan McRoberts later spoke to Martin County Sheriff William Snyder, who confirmed that he would be sending deputies to the border.
"The needs of the Martin County residents have to come first," Snyder told WPTV. "We're right on the verge of hurricane season. But when the governor of the state of Florida calls and says, 'Would you please assist other law enforcement agencies?' I felt like the right thing to do was to say yes. You know, we have to keep in mind that someday we may be in a situation where we need help."
The sheriffs in attendance spoke about the increase in crimes involving drugs like methamphetamine and criticized the Biden administration, saying it has "opened the flood gates to our country."
"Make no mistake: when the Biden administration began, it took a wrecking ball to the infrastructure controlling immigration in our southern border, and it left the devastation for the states to deal with, with no plan, no strategy, no enforcement action in place," Moody added.
DeSantis called the situation at the border a "created crisis."
"This was a crisis created by going against policies that were working just because you don't like your predecessor," DeSantis, whose endorsement by Trump in 2018 helped him win the Republican gubernatorial nomination and, ultimately, the governor's office, said of the Biden administration.
Earlier in the day, the Florida Clemency Board pardoned any individuals who faced penalties for violating any county or municipal COVID-19 restrictions.
DeSantis, along with Moody and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, supported the pardons. Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who is running against DeSantis in 2022, opposed them.
Among those pardoned was a Broward County gym owner who was arrested several times last year for not enforcing a countywide mask mandate amid the pandemic.