Ahead of a speech on Monday delivered from the border town of Eagle Pass, Texas, the Florida governor viewed the southern border from a helicopter with a Fox News reporter and later criticized the porous nature of Trump’s wall.
“I was in Arizona the other day. You have like — wall, then it just kind of stops,” he said, warning that the structure allows illegal entry by members of Mexican drug cartels, who can “cut through the really fortified steel beams.”
“If somebody were breaking into your house to do something bad, you would respond with force. Yet why don’t we do that at the Southern border?“ DeSantis said during a press conference following the speech. “If the cartels are cutting through the border wall, trying to run product into this country, they’re going to end up stone cold dead as a result of that bad decision and if you do that one time, you are not going to see them mess with our wall ever again.“
DeSantis is running second in polling, trailing Trump by double digits and watching the field expand to a crowd that dilutes his own standing. His speech signaled he views the border as an issue that damages both Trump and Biden, while also appealing to his following of hard-liners.
“What I’ve seen at the border is just humiliating as a country — that we can’t even enforce the territorial integrity of this nation,” DeSantis said in a speech designed to undermine Biden on one of his bigger political liabilities.
He even seemed to agree with the prospect of declaring war over unlawful immigration when asked by someone in the audience. “I think the state of Texas has the right to declare an invasion,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis said the “ruling class” in Washington, D.C., is ignoring the spread of fentanyl in the United States — a problem he repeatedly attributed to illegal Southern border crossings.
And he vowed to employ executive authority to crack down on border crossings.
Public polling has shown voters are troubled by Biden’s handling of the border — a problem exacerbated by the end of a Covid-era policy restricting migrants from entering the country. A Global Strategy Group survey released in April found 58 percent of voters in seven battleground states reported disapproving of how the White House is handling the subject, compared to just 32 percent who supported the president.
DeSantis is hoping to make the issue just as much of a problem for his leading Republican competitor. Trump ran in 2016 on a mantra of building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, but the structure was not completed — something DeSantis, who is trailing Trump in the polls, has seized on as he crisscrosses the country’s early voting states.
Trump’s MAGA PAC issued a scathing statement in anticipation of DeSantis’ speech, opening with a tweet DeSantis posted in 2021 applauding Trump’s border policies.
“President Trump secured America’s border, just ask Ron DeSantis,” the statement read.
The statement delineated Trump’s own border policies, including a vow to issue an executive order ending the policy of automatic citizenship for U.S.-born children of parents who do not live here lawfully, and would “build even more border wall.”
Democrats slammed DeSantis, who has shipped border crossers from Florida to swanky parts of New York and California as he geared up for his presidential run, and again after declaring.
“Ron DeSantis has repeatedly used young children and families as pawns in his shallow political stunts to pander to the MAGA base,” Democratic National Committee spokesperson Ammar Moussa said. “This latest plan is more of the same — political gimmicks that are merely an echo of the same cruel and callous policies of the Trump administration that broke our immigration system.”
DeSantis, who represents a state with a large Latin American population, routinely makes a point of discussing border crossers who are not of South and Central American descent. On Monday he warned of border crossers from China and Tajikistan, as well as those on terrorist watch lists.