He’s back, and ready to once again piggyback on one of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s big anti-immigrant spectacles to score some political points of his own.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Thursday he would be sending troops from his state’s National Guard and State Guard to “assist” Abbott as the Texas governor declares a migrant “invasion” at the border, part of a multi-pronged but largely performative challenge to the U.S. federal government. DeSantis has offered to send about 1,000 Florida National Guard officers depending on “Texas’s needs.”
“States have every right to defend their sovereignty and we are pleased to increase our support to Texas as the Lone Star State works to stop the invasion across the border,” DeSantis said in a statement Thursday. “Our reinforcements will help Texas to add additional barriers, including razor wire along the border. We don’t have a country if we don’t have a border.”
What exactly those troops would assist with is hard to say. Abbott and other Texas Republicans have been making plenty of noise for the past week that gives the impression the state will defy a recent Supreme Court decision — all without actually doing so. The ruling allowed the Biden administration to cut through border wire that Texas has put up along the border, blocking both migrants and federal Border Patrol from accessing part of it. As my colleague Josh Kovensky explained, Texas officials’ claims of defying the Supreme Court is, for the moment, all a lot of talk — red meat served up on a platter for anti-government extremists, Trump supporters and the Republicans hoping to appeal to the two.
DeSantis is one of a few Republican governors who have pledged their support for whatever Abbott’s doing. Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt has joined the rhetorical fight, arguing this week that state’s have a right to defy SCOTUS if state officials have a different interpretation of the Constitution than the High Court.
But this is not the first time DeSantis has seen Abbott making headlines for stunts that cruelly use migrants as props and has tried to get in on the action. The motivation for DeSantis, who is no longer running for president and who will be term-limited when his term is up in 2026, is just much less clear this time.
For a good chunk of 2022 and early 2023, it appeared as though Abbott and DeSantis were in a standoff of their own, competing to see who could ruin their state the best in service of earning support from Trump voters as they both openly flirted with 2024 bids. (DeSantis, of course, was the one to actually pull the trigger and is currently licking his wounds after voters found him unlikable and robotic, and Trump easily demolished him.)
One element of that seeming competition between the two men included a rather elaborate set of schemes that involved, if you’ve somehow forgotten, shipping migrants from Texas’ border to various blue cities and states, oftentimes without the undocumented immigrants’ knowledge where they were being sent or consent to go there. The scheme was Abbott’s brainchild initially — until DeSantis swooped in and one-upped the Texas governor, collecting migrants from Texas and shipping them off, unannounced, to Martha’s Vineyard.
DeSantis reportedly did this without communicating his intentions with Abbott’s office, a move that sparked some tension between the two otherwise logical bedfellows.