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Analyzing Ron DeSantis’ Proposed Immigration Policy: A Deep Dive

Jun 28, 2023

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (source:

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has made immigration a focal point during his tenure in office, and now, with an eye on a presidential bid, DeSantis continues to court conservatives with promises like constructing a U.S.-Mexico border wall and abolishing birthright citizenship.

Quick Context: Who is Ron DeSantis?

Ron DeSantis is the Governor of Florida and is known for his conservative stance on various issues, including immigration. Lately, he has been in the news for presenting several hardline immigration proposals.

DeSantis’ Immigration Proposals: The Key Points

Using Deadly Force at the Border

What’s the Plan? DeSantis suggests the use of deadly force against individuals suspected of drug trafficking or showing “hostile intent” at the border.

Is this Possible? When it comes to law enforcement, the use of deadly force is tightly regulated by the law. The U.S. Constitution ensures people are protected from excessive force. If this proposal is pursued, it’s highly likely that its constitutionality and adherence to human rights standards would be fiercely debated in the courts. According to the Fourth Amendment and various Supreme Court precedents, there’s a well-established standard of “reasonableness” to assess whether the use of force is justified. The vague nature of the term “hostile intent” in this proposal could make it particularly susceptible to legal challenges.

Ending Birthright Citizenship

What’s the Plan? DeSantis proposes ending the automatic granting of U.S. citizenship to individuals born in the country.

Is this Possible? This one is pretty much a no-go. Birthright citizenship is enshrined in the 14th Amendment and changing it would be a monumental endeavor. This amendment, a cornerstone of American identity, ensures that all individuals born in the United States are automatically citizens. Altering this bedrock principle is akin to changing the course of a massive river – it would necessitate a Constitutional Amendment, requiring two-thirds majority support in both the House and Senate, and ratification by three-fourths of the states.

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Deputizing State and Local Law Enforcement for Immigration Purposes

What’s the Plan? DeSantis suggests deputizing state and local law enforcement to arrest, deport, and detain migrants.

Is this Possible? Here’s the thing: Immigration is primarily a federal matter. The Supreme Court has previously ruled that states can’t simply create their own immigration policies. By suggesting that state and local law enforcement should be empowered to arrest, deport, and detain migrants, DeSantis is essentially trying to steer federal powers into local hands. But in 2012, the Supreme Court dropped the anchor on a similar Arizona law in Arizona v. United States, asserting that immigration matters rest firmly within federal jurisdiction. As such, this proposal is likely to face the massive headwinds of established legal precedent.

Requiring Asylum Seekers to Wait in Mexico

What’s the Plan? This plan is reminiscent of the “Remain in Mexico” policy of the Trump era, which would require certain asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their claims are processed.

Is this Possible? This is a tricky one. Technically, yes, it’s possible. But it would be an uphill battle for any administration. If elected president, DeSantis could potentially push for the reenactment of the “Remain in Mexico Policy,” but it’s a complicated process. The Supreme Court’s decision in Biden v. Texas didn’t touch on the policy’s core merits, but rather its procedural aspects. So, to bring the policy back, a few things would need to happen:

The U.S. government would need to engage with the Mexican government to get their buy-in. It would need to tweak the policy to tackle the big issues like asylum seekers’ safety in Mexico and not overloading Mexico’s immigration system.

A new lawsuit would need to be filed in federal court to get the go-ahead to reinstate the policy, and the court would weigh in on its legality. There is also the political arena to consider. This policy isn’t exactly a crowd favorite among Democrats, so garnering bipartisan support in Congress would be crucial, and difficult.

Deploying the Military to the Border

What’s the Plan? DeSantis proposes deploying the military to assist Border Patrol agents until a border wall is completed.

Is this Possible? Yes, Ron DeSantis could, as President, deploy the U.S. military to the border while completing the border wall, but it won’t be smooth sailing. First, he’ll have to contend with very specific laws. The Posse Comitatus Act puts a damper on using the military as a police force. It essentially states the military can lend a hand to civilian law enforcement and even detain immigrants caught at the border. But the they can’t go around arresting or searching folks without a solid reason, and they’ve got to stay in their lane, focusing on national security.

The next challenge he’ll face is political pushback. Some Democrats and civil rights groups are not thrilled about the military getting involved in immigration enforcement. So, expect potential court challenges and some hefty debates. If DeSantis gets into the Oval Office, deploying the military is a possibility, but he’s going to have to jump through legal hoops and brace for political headwinds.

Detaining Unauthorized Migrants Until Court Hearings

What’s the Plan? Detaining all unauthorized migrants until their immigration court hearings.

Is this Possible? DeSantis’ idea to detain all unauthorized migrants until their court dates is ambitious, but he’s likely to hit a few roadblocks.

First up, logistics. Detaining all unauthorized migrants means needing a lot more space than is currently available — think beds, facilities, the works. The U.S. has around 55,000 beds for this purpose right now. Adding more facilities equals lots of dollars.

Then, there is the legal tangle. The Flores Settlement Agreement from 1997 is a big player here. The law is like a guardian angel for kids, ensuring they don’t get stuck in adult facilities for more than 20 days. So, DeSantis would need a plan for minors, which could mean foster care or housing them with relatives.

Now let’s talk ethics. Many would argue that holding folks in detention like this is harsh, especially when they haven’t been convicted of a crime. And what about those seeking asylum? Some say detaining them isn’t just unfair, but unnecessary. So, could DeSantis really detain all unauthorized migrants until their hearings? It’s a mammoth task with practical, legal, and ethical challenges.

Why Immigration is Just One Piece of the Puzzle for 2024’s President

Whoever voters elect as president in 2024 will face a staggering array of challenges that extend far beyond the sphere of immigration. While immigration is important, in recent years, immigration policy has been diminished to clickbait and political maneuvering rather than an all-encompassing strategy for the nation’s welfare.

Tackling the economy will be urgent, as Americans grapple with inflation and rising gas prices. Healthcare, too, requires immediate attention, focusing on affordability, accessibility, and quality. Social issues such as abortion, gun control, and LGBTQ+ rights cannot be ignored and will demand clear positions and policies. With a nation potentially divided, the President will need to act decisively to unify and address citizens’ concerns head-on. The country needs a holistic approach that doesn’t get bogged down by any single issue, but rather assesses and addresses the myriad of challenges on the horizon, many of which could be solved, with comprehensive immigration reform, not hardline anti-immigrant policies.

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