(The Center Square) – At a border security summit in Arizona on Wednesday led by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody expressed frustration for those in law enforcement fighting cartels. She also gave an update on her office’s success challenging the Biden administration’s “unlawful mass release” policies in court.
Joining DeSantis and Moody at the border summit were Cochise County, Arizona Sheriff Mark Dannels; sheriffs from Texas and Florida and sheriffs leading national and regional sheriffs associations; Canyon County, Idaho Sheriff Kieran Donahue, also vice president of the National Sheriff’s Association; and Lea County, New Mexico Sheriff Corey Helton, also president of the Western States Sheriffs Association.
Prior to the summit, DeSantis and Moody met with the sheriffs to hear the challenges they are facing in their own states and counties.
Attorney General Moody said, “it broke my heart to hear those in law enforcement who signed up to protect and serve their communities who say they feel like they are losing the war to cartels. One sheriff had a 1,500% increase in deaths due to fentanyl. One sheriff has had a nearly 50% increase in border-related crime in one year.
“They say they are losing the war and the reason these fine folks feel this way is because we have a general in the White House who has abandoned us on the battlefield, walked to the side and started waving the flag of surrender like it is a starting flag at a NASCAR race, saying, ‘come on in as fast as you can,'” Moody said. “We across this nation are seeing the effects of that.”
She said it was “heartening” that those “who truly want to serve this nation and their communities, to protect our border and our nation” are coming together to devise a solution, share resources and intelligence.
Gov. DeSantis said they would soon announce a strike force joining multiple sheriff’s departments nationwide to combat crime coming from the southern border.
Moody also said, “we cannot believe the numbers 100% of the time,” referring to apprehension and other data published by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. “Are the numbers even true if we’re seeing folks not even attempt to encounter people anymore?” she asked. She was referring to “gotaways,” those who evade capture, who aren’t being identified or apprehended by Border Patrol agents because they’ve been pulled off the line, tasked with processing illegal foreign nationals into the country.
A U.S. border patrol agent provides preliminary data of apprehensions and gotaway data exclusively to The Center Square on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal. Gotaway data is not publicly reported by U.S. customs and border protection. The agent has recently described a surge in the Rio Grande Valley sector of Texas as reaching a “broken arrow” crisis.
“Within the very first month of this current administration, we saw a complete purposeful breakdown of the immigration public safety structure,” Moody said, referring to the Biden administration reversing previous policies and implementing new ones that conflict with federal law. The administration has placed the blame for the border crisis on Congress, climate change, other nations, and others, she said.
“But through Florida actions and uncovering information, you can see, and even now a judge has said, there is one person to blame, one administration, and that is Biden,” she said. “Because in the very first month of office, [the Biden administration] broke down programs that were there to secure the border. … They then asked for less resources and less ability to detain those coming over so they could properly vet and run down who these people were. And then immediately within the first month, they released 571% more people than the last month of the last administration.
“They started mass releasing people against the law into the United States. People that had not been properly vetted people that had not been given proper charging documents … and they used the term … ‘prosecutorial discretion’ to mass release people without knowing what those folks are going to do to your communities in terms of public safety.”
She said, “that is unlawful. You cannot mass release people into our country. That is no border. So, Florida brought suit. And what did we discover? Yes, they were doing things in violation of the law. Yes, Border Patrol told them … when you start releasing people like this … you will have a crisis.”
She said the lawsuit “called them on it. What did they do in response? They changed the policy. We amended our complaint. What did they do then? They changed it again. We amended our complaint. When we finally got them into a courtroom, when we finally got a judge to say, ‘you can’t do this… you have broken our border turned it into nothing more than a line in the sand,'” referring to a ruling by U.S. District Judge T. Kent Wetherell, she said, “what did they do? They didn’t appeal. They waited until the last day before Title 42 was to expire to try and bring an appeal … and told us their new policy. You know what their new policy was? The same one the judge just found illegal, and all they did was change the title.”
Florida has won several rounds against the Biden administration in several border-related lawsuits it filed, including most recently at the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.