The office of Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis last week issued a blistering critique of President Joe Biden’s administration’s efforts to hamper the implementation of a rule the governor released in December to block resettlement of unaccompanied migrant children in state-licensed facilities in the Sunshine State.
This latest push represents a further escalation between the Florida governor and the White House over Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC).
DeSantis’s general counsel Ryan Newman wrote in a letter to Health and Human Services (HHS) officials in Biden’s administration:
It is critical that lines of responsibility and accountability are clearly drawn. So long as the Biden administration continues its irresponsible immigration policies, Florida no longer wishes to be involved in the Federal Government’s UAC resettlement program. DCF’s change of policy makes clear that the Federal Government, not the State of Florida, is solely responsible for the care and safety of the UAC that it has chosen to bring into the country.
Newman’s three-page Jan. 26 letter, sent to the deputy General Counsel of HHS, Mark Greenberg, in the Biden administration, was obtained exclusively by Breitbart News ahead of its public release. In the missive, the top DeSantis attorney warns the Biden administration that state-licensed Department of Children and Families (DCF) facilities will lose their licenses if they accept Biden’s migrant children being transported to the state—and that the state of Florida will only reconsider this stance if Biden reinstates former President Donald Trump’s highly effective Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) and Remain-in-Mexico agreements—or something very much like those—that had largely stemmed the flow of migrants into the country. Newman wrote:
Under the emergency order, DCF has no obligation to enter into any cooperative agreement with the Federal Government and it does not intend to do so unless the Federal Government restores the immigration enforcement policies of the prior administration or implements similar such policies. Faithful enforcement of federal immigration law to secure the border, deter illegal immigration, and prevent the surge of illegal aliens at the border, including UAC, is a baseline prerequisite to any future cooperative agreement involving the resettlement of UAC in Florida.
What’s more, even after those policies are reinstated and Biden’s damaging open borders edicts are reversed, DeSantis’s general counsel wrote that the state of Florida would not reopen a new prospective future agreement with the federal government unless several other parameters are met on this front:
In any event, any such future cooperative agreement would need to include, at a minimum, advance notice when UAC are transported into Florida, verification that the UAC are under the age of 18 and do not have a criminal history or affiliation with criminal gangs, and an opportunity for the state to object if the number of UAC transported to Florida becomes excessive as compared to other states.
The DeSantis team letter comes in response to an HHS inquiry sent to the governor after, as Breitbart News reported exclusively in December, his administration issued a rule change barring the issuance of or renewal of licenses to state-licensed facilities that house unaccompanied migrant minors brought into the United States by the Biden administration and placed in those Department of Children and Families (DCF) facilities in Florida.
Newman wrote to Greenberg after revealing that DeSantis had authorized him to respond to the federal government on his behalf on this matter:
We understand that Congress has made a policy choice to require the Federal Government to assume custody and care of UAC who arrive at the southern border. We also understand that the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has been assigned ultimate responsibility for this difficult task and that the Biden administration’s weak immigration enforcement policies have made the task even more difficult. Nevertheless, the states, including the State of Florida, have no obligation to aid or assist the Federal Government’s policy choices. The Federal Government has chosen to be the caretaker of UAC arriving at the border; it must take full responsibility for that choice.
DeSantis in December issued an emergency order changing the rules for licensure of DCF facilities throughout the state of Florida. These state-licensed facilities, of which there are many statewide, house children who do not have anywhere else to go. Technically, they are meant for Floridian children, but the Biden administration has been sending migrant children, who stream across the border over the last year plus to many of these facilities in Florida—and similar types of facilities in other states nationwide.
After that December story from Breitbart News and DeSantis’s emergency order, Greenberg—the deputy general at HHS, representing the Biden administration—wrote to the governor a blistering critique of the governor’s policy noting that the federal government refuses to provide Florida with individual data on every migrant child the Biden administration intends to transport into the state.
Greenberg wrote in part:
We wish to make clear that while we are open to providing needed information for Florida to understand the policies and procedures under which ORR places unaccompanied non-citizen children in ORR-funded shelters and other facilities, HHS could not agree to allow Florida or any other state to require individualized review in each case before children are placed in a facility.
DeSantis’s general counsel continues in his letter to the Biden administration by explaining the statistics behind the Biden-driven explosion of migrant children arriving at the border—a mass expansion beyond what happened during now former President Donald Trump’s administration.
Since Biden took office, Newman wrote, his administration has “exacerbated the UAC problem by pursuing open borders policies and lax immigration enforcement” that has resulted in more than 146,000 unaccompanied migrant children arriving at the border during Biden’s first year in office as compared with just 33,000 in the 2020 fiscal year or 80,000 in the 2019 fiscal year.
Newman’s letter continues:
The burdens of this administration’s policies are not shared equally among the states. Only 22 states currently have ORR-contracted facilities that house UAC. We estimate that at least 4,284 UAC have been housed in these facilities in Florida over the last year. In addition, ORR placed 11,145 UAC with sponsors in Florida last fiscal year. That number, second highest in the country, exceeds 10,773 UAC placed in California, which has almost twice the population of Florida.
Newman’s letter argues that the Biden policies are “dangerous” for the migrant children who, because of them, are victims of human trafficking and that the “Federal Government then, in effect, completes the human trafficking scheme” by resettling them in various places across the country. It also argues that the program is a “hazard” to Floridians. “Most UAC are male teenagers nearing adulthoods, and some are gang members when they arrive or later become gang members,” the governor’s lawyer wrote.
For all of those reasons and more, Newman writes, the state of Florida’s DCF “can no longer participate in or otherwise facilitate this highly flawed federal program until significant changes are made in federal immigration enforcement.”