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DeSantis signs restrictive immigration bill, slams Biden as Title 42 is set to expire

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a sweeping immigration bill Wednesday that creates stricter laws for undocumented immigrants in the state, as he warned this week's expiration of Title 42, a pandemic-era border restriction, will result in "huge, huge problems."

"You are going to see a massive surge of illegal aliens, you have a duty to ensure that these borders are secure. This is a huge disaster on our hands," DeSantis said at a press conference in Jacksonville, Florida, on Wednesday. 

DeSantis' bill, SB1718, allocates $12 million for the transport of migrants to other states. In 2022, DeSantis sent 49 migrants to Martha's Vineyard and was sued over the incident before a federal judge dismissed the case. The migrants he'd flown to Massachusetts were not in Florida — they were in Texas.

In February, DeSantis signed a bill to establish an "Unauthorized Alien Transport Program" in state law. Details about where and how the program would transport migrants have not been shared, but the law says the program would "facilitate the transport of inspected unauthorized aliens within the United States."

The state's Division of Emergency Management has recently selected three vendors to carry out future relocation flights, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

The measure would also impose penalties on Florida businesses that hire undocumented immigrants, require a citizenship question on patient forms for hospitals that accept Medicare and will no longer recognize drivers licenses issued to undocumented immigrants from other states. 

DeSantis, a likely 2024 presidential candidate, has repeatedly criticized President Biden for his immigration policies as the U.S.-Mexico border sees an increase in the number of arriving migrants. He said federal reform on immigration should include giving states more power to enforce immigration law. 

"Where's this president's energy? Where's his vigor? Where's his commitment to the cause? He's just sitting around doing nothing of importance or nothing of note while the American people suffer," DeSantis said of Mr. Biden.

The Biden administration has finalized restrictions on asylum that will increase deportations for migrants who cross the U.S.-Mexico border after Title 42 expires, according to internal documents obtained by CBS News.

DeSantis claimed it's "easier to come to this country illegally than it is legally" but also criticized legal immigration processes, like allowing migrants to sponsor family members to immigrate to the U.S. — often disparagingly called "chain migration" by conservatives —  and the diversity lottery, a U.S. program that issues up to 50,000 immigrant visas to people from countries with low rates of immigration to the U.S.

He also showed support for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, a signature issue for former President Donald Trump, who has already declared his 2024 presidential candidacy.

Critics of DeSantis' immigration policies say they're harmful and will create a chilling effect for the immigrant community in Florida. Estimates from the Migration Policy Institute show there are at least 772,000 undocumented immigrants in Florida.

"The reality is that Floridians' lives are shaped by immigration and the proposals of Governor DeSantis are causing incredible harm," said Renata Bozzetto, deputy director of the Florida Immigrant Coalition, in late April. "Those bills are targeting individuals who are propelling Florida in everyday life."

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador called the bill "immoral" and "politicking" on Monday.

"Imagine, Florida, which is full of migrants, is taking repressive, inhumane measures against migrants in Florida because he wants to be a candidate," López Obrador said a press conference Monday.

In a statement given to Breitbart on Wednesday, DeSantis responded and said, "Floridians won't let their immigration laws be dictated by Mexico City. I'll never back down from using the full weight of my office to protect the people of Florida by enforcing our immigration law."

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