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SHAME: Florida Lieutenant Governor promises to send Cuban migrants to Delaware

SHAME: Florida Lieutenant Governor promises to send Cuban migrants to Delaware

SHAME: Florida Lieutenant Governor promises to send Cuban migrants to Delaware

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Florida’s Cuban-American Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez made quite the stir in recent days by going on Spanish radio and detailing Governor Ron DeSantis’ plan to bus migrants arriving in the Sunshine State to Delaware.

The host on 1040 AM Actualidad Radio asked Nuñez about the Cubans who are seeking refuge in the United States through the southern U.S. border, a large number of whom later end up in South Florida due to their connections to the diaspora community of Cuban-Americans there. Nuñez answered with shocking insensitivity and cruelty, “he’s [DeSantis] going to send them, very frankly, to the State of Delaware, the state of the President.”

While this was treated by many Republicans as some sort of gaffe by Nuñez, the reality is that she was merely regurgitating the goal outlined by the DeSantis administration. During this year’s legislative session in Tallahassee, DeSantis rammed through Senate Bill 1808, an anti-immigrant proposal that barred companies who transport migrants —  including unaccompanied minors — who are under the asylum process into Florida. Preceding that was an executive order that sought to strip licenses from nonprofit shelters that care for and seek to reunite these minors with family members.

These anti-immigrant policies weren’t enough for DeSantis, who has been on a race to the gutter with Texas Governor Greg Abbott to see who is more cruelly xenophobic. After Texas established a program to bus migrants who arrived through the Southern Border to Washington DC, something Texas had to do on a voluntary basis as forcing migrants to be bused would have amounted to kidnapping, the DeSantis administration decided to try and replicate this idiotic and performative stunt.

The Florida legislature ended up allocating $12 million in the state budget at the behest of DeSantis to contract with private transportation companies to bus people, specifically to Delaware, a state which DeSantis has fixated upon as Joe Biden’s home state.

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While the Florida Department of Transportation said that they would be able to “enter into contracts with private entities” to begin this busing program as soon as the state budget was signed, the program has yet to start. Inquiries regarding the status of the program have not provided any more clarity, with the state agency saying that there is no “information on implementation at this time.”

Soon after Nuñez’s comments regarding busing Cuban and other migrants to Delaware, DeSantis seemed to uncharacteristically backtrack from his little performative stunt, saying that Texas’ program had relieved pressure on Florida as fewer migrants were coming to the state. While DeSantis provided no data to back his assertion, it seems that Florida’s busing program is on standby for the time being.

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I have been told by sources close to the DeSantis administration that he is very sensitive to criticism on Spanish media as they aggressively court Latino voters, particularly Cuban-Americans. Nuñez has faced a firestorm of controversy, including that from a recent press conference in Miami held by Florida Democrats and immigration advocates.

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His anti-immigrant policies during the legislative session have already provoked the wrath of certain sectors of South Florida’s Cuban-American community, who are outraged at his attacks on shelters that took care of unaccompanied minors from the island during the outset of the Cuban Revolution. DeSantis’ own spokesperson and chief propagandist Christina Pushaw ignited a storm of controversy earlier this year when she called Miami’s Archbishop Thomas Wenski a liar after he criticized DeSantis for his attacks against unaccompanied minors.

It seems that the pressure is getting to Ron DeSantis as prospects for Democrats in the midterms seem to improve after the overturning of Roe V. Wade. This busing idea was always nothing more than a taxpayer-funded stunt meant as red meat to the most extremist elements of the Republican base, a base that DeSantis is obsessed with pandering to as he weighs a possible presidential run in 2024. It’s unfortunate that it’s real people who are fleeing violence, political repression, and poverty who suffer the brunt of these political games.

Original reporting by Ana Ceballos at The Miami Herald.

Thomas Kennedy (Twitter: @tomaskenn) is an elected Democratic National Committee member representing Florida. 

This is an opinion column that solely represents the viewpoint of the author. 

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Thomas Kennedy
is a former reported opinion columnist and roving correspondent. He's an elected member of the Democratic National Committee from Florida and a fomer Director of Sunshine Agenda Inc. a government transparency nonprofit organization.

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