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DeSantis toughens sentences for crimes committed by illegal immigrants

The measure is part of a legislative package signed into law by the Florida governor on Friday. He also discussed deploying the National Guard to deal with the influx of illegal immigration from Haiti.

El gobernador de Florida, Ron DeSantis, se postula para presidente de los Estados Unidos en las elecciones de 2024.

(Credit Image: © Kyle Mazza/SOPA Images via ZUMA Press Wire)

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"The federal government has failed in its responsibility to secure our southern border, leaving states to fend for themselves," Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said after signing a legislative package Friday to address illegal immigration.

One of the laws, SB 1036, increases the penalties for crimes committed by immigrants who illegally re-entered the country after having been deported. The law increases the previous sentence of five years behind bars (a third-degree felony) to 15. A 15-year sentence (a second-degree felony) will increase to 30 and a 30-year sentence (a first-degree felony) automatically goes up to life imprisonment.

The law also toughens penalties for collaborating with drug cartels. Sentences will also be reclassified in a similar way.

A second law, HB 1451, bans both cities and counties in Florida from accepting identity cards issued by other jurisdictions to immigrants who have crossed the border illegally.

A third, HB 1589, raises the penalty for anyone convicted of driving without a license. Although the latter does not directly target undocumented immigrants, it does include them. A previous regulation prohibits them from obtaining driver's licenses and even considers those obtained in other states to be invalid.

A new front

In his speech on Friday, DeSantis also revealed that state law enforcement had intercepted a boat of Haitian immigrants hiding firearms and drugs.

On February 29, two officers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission intercepted a 42-foot boat with 25 people, five of them unaccompanied minors, which had sailed from Haiti. They also found the vessel operator, an American citizen, armed.

"They had firearms, they had drugs, they had night vision gear and were boating very recklessly, which would potentially endanger other folks," said the governor, who also said that the detainees had been handed over to federal authorities, who, he insisted, should take charge of these operations.

A coalition of criminal gangs led by Jimmy "Barbecue" Cherizier has flooded Haiti's streets with violence in recent weeks. The crisis prompted the United States to evacuate part of its embassy and deploy an anti-terrorist unit on Haitian soil to assist U.S. citizens still there, as well as to "ensure a peaceful transition of power."

Authorities are concerned about a possible increase in the influx of immigrants from the country. Last Tuesday, the Coast Guard repatriated 65 Haitians.

Two days later, DeSantis blamed the Biden administration for not fulfilling its mission to defend the border and announced he was deploying more than 200 officers and soldiers.

"We've got an incredible amount of resources that are now on display," the former candidate for the Republican nomination said in his Friday speech. "Coast Guard does by and large a good job, but they're undermanned, they are under-resourced, so we're filling those gaps."