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Transcript: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on "Face the Nation," Jan. 7, 2024

DeSantis: 2024 will be "really nasty election" if about Trump
Ron DeSantis says 2024 race will be "really nasty election" if the race is about Trump 06:52

The following is a transcript of an interview with 2024 GOP hopeful Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis that aired on Jan. 7, 2024.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We go now to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who joins us from Des Moines, Iowa. Good morning to you, Governor.

GOV. RON DESANTIS: Good morning. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: You know, when we were in Texas, we saw Florida law enforcement trucks patrolling along that Texas border. I know you've been very supportive of Governor Abbott of Texas. Do you think that immigration should be left up to federal authorities? Or do you also plan to have Florida try to use its local law enforcement to arrest migrants?

GOV. RON DESANTIS: Well, when I'm President, we will of course, it's a federal issue- a federal interest. But states and local localities should absolutely be able to supplement the federal government. And we're in a situation now where the federal government asserts under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, that they have the sole dominion over enforcing immigration laws, but they're choosing not to faithfully enforce immigration laws.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But supplementing is different than superseding. And as you know, the Supreme Court was asked to weigh in on this in the state of Arizona back in 2012. Are you saying in Florida, you're going to use law enforcement to arrest migrants now?

GOV. RON DESANTIS: What I'm saying is, as President, I am going to deputize state and localities. And you're right about that Arizona case, I actually think the Supreme Court would- would reevaluate that today, especially in light of what we've seen. But as president, I am going to say state and localities have the authority to enforce immigration laws, as long as they're upholding the law. It's one thing if a state was trying to frustrate the law - of course, under the Supremacy Clause, they couldn't do that. But that's not what we have here. It's the federal government that's frustrating the imposition- the enforcement of the law. It's the states that just want the law enforced.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So there were at least two groups of migrants fleeing Cuba that landed in your state of Florida this past week. But the numbers versus last year are actually way down. The Biden administration said anyone caught at sea will be banned from humanitarian parole programs. Do you believe that the Biden policy has helped Florida?

GOV. RON DESANTIS: Well, what's helped Florida, Margaret- because this coast guard does a good job. And they are in charge of that. We started to have a rash of boats coming and there were a lot of gaps because the Coast Guard didn't have enough resources. So I marshaled state resources, state maritime assets, we filled in the gaps. And so what would happen if you had a boat coming from Haiti, let's say, Florida law enforcement would interdict, we would have to turn over the potential illegal aliens to the Coast Guard, but then the Coast Guard would deport them back to Haiti or Cuba or wherever. That had a huge, huge deterrent effect, because people are not going to want to go- go over those choppy waters, knowing that most likely they're just going to end up back where they came. It's the same principle applied to the southern border. People know, if they just get to the border, they're gonna get a free pass in the United States. So they're gonna be willing to pay thousands of dollars to coyotes and cartels. If we have a new sheriff in town on this, and they know they're going back to their home country, you're gonna see a dramatic decrease in people that are going to even try this voyage. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, let me ask you about that. Because you said this past week, you would like to deport nearly 8 million undocumented migrants? Would you deport those who are awaiting asylum legal proceedings before they've had their day in court?

GOV. RON DESANTIS: Well, what we're gonna do is we're going to streamline that, you know, we're going to do a presumption against asylum for the people that come across the border illegally, from the from the traditional countries, which- you know, look, America has is a better place to live than some of those countries, but they just don't qualify for asylum. So yes, they will be included. We're going to work through that to make sure that we can streamline it, but the idea that you can come to the southern--

MARGARET BRENNAN: -- Do you think you need Congress to do that? 

GOV. RON DESANTIS: --border. I think we can do, I think we could do a lot through executive action. I do think it'd be helpful for Congress to do some things on that. And I know the House of Representatives with HR 2 is doing that. I would support that. But we have a situation now, you show up at the border, you say the magic words, then they give you a sheet of paper and they say come back in two years. Enjoy your stay in America. How is that something that is ever going to get this border under control? And I'll tell you, I'm here in Iowa now talking to people in New Hampshire, South Carolina, these early states. They're frustrated with how the federal government will treat people coming into our country illegally, better than Americans in some respects. Free- free lodging, free transportation. You know, the Biden administration was charging people to get out of Israel to take them to Greece. I sent planes to Israel, we sent- we brought people back free of charge. So we've got to put the American people and our sovereignty first. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Our CBS polling shows half the country expects there will be violence from the side that loses in future elections. Do you share that concern about this race?

GOV. RON DESANTIS: Oh, I hope not. I mean- I think that, you know, we have an opportunity, one of the- one of the reasons I'm running is I think the Republicans, we have a great shot to win. If we frame the issues about the problems facing the country, the failures of the Biden administration, and how we have a great set of ideas to turn the country around. And I've shown how that can be done in Florida. I think if we're re-litigating the past elections, if it's about, you know, Donald Trump, or his legal issues, or criminal trials or all that stuff, you know, I think it's going to be a really nasty election. I don't think that puts Republicans in a good position to win. So we need to have an election on the issues. You know, we need a candidate that can win a clear cut victory, and we need to start looking forward as a country.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You have never lost a political race before in your career. You are a second in the CBS Iowa projections. Is that victory enough for you?

GOV. RON DESANTIS: Well, we got to win a majority of the delegates. This is a long process. We're doing really well in Iowa. You know, I kind of like being underestimated, Margaret. So I hope people kind of say- say that. But we've got the enthusiasm. When the calendar clicked to '24, you see, we got more undecided voters coming out to all our events. So we're going to outwork everybody. But this is a long process. There's a lot that happens to accumulate all these delegates, we're going to do well in Iowa, but we're also going to be competing in all these other states. And I think that there's a lot of real estate, I think a lot of things are going to happen. I wish the former president would actually debate though, I mean, I think if you're going to stand for nomination, you should be able to stand on a stage to do it. I'm happy to debate him on your program, or if your network wants to host a debate in New Hampshire, South Carolina. But the idea that he can go and just read off the teleprompter for 45 minutes and then go back, you know, back home, that doesn't cut it in Iowa. And that doesn't cut it in a lot of these states. And so, let's go. Get on the stage and let's have the debate of ideas and I hope Donald Trump will be willing to do that. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: We will see. Governor, thank you for your time this morning.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll be right back.

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