Florida’s extremist governor continues to endanger the safety of children in his state, last week issuing a so-called “emergency” rule blocking the license renewals of federally funded facilities where asylum-seeking children in Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) custody are held while they wait to be placed with a sponsor.
“An unknown number of children in Florida are also housed with foster families as part of the program who are also not being renewed,” ABC Action News said. That report revealed that dozens of children have already been moved from a Lutheran Services facility in Sarasota after its license was not renewed by the state. Florida’s actions have been rebuked by members of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
“Our Governor has children himself,” Dr. Lisa Gwynn, a pediatrician and organization member, told ABC Action News late last month. “I just can’t imagine how this decision could be made knowing kids can’t speak for themselves, they need to be protected.” Most unaccompanied children coming to the U.S. already have a relative here. “They’re excited to be reunited with family, go to school and live in safe environments, doesn’t everyone deserve that,” Gwynn continued.
DeSantis in his announcement described the rule as “robust.” Nope. It’s absolutely cruel anti-immigrant politicking at the expense of the most vulnerable. How do we know this? Asylum-seeking children have been placed in facilities in the state for years, including during the previous administration. DeSantis said nothing then. “I’ve never experienced this before so I don’t really understand,” Lutheran Services of Tampa CEO Sam Sipes told ABC Action News. The report notes that the organization has sought legal action.
Nor did DeSantis say anything at that time about the very routine flights bringing these children to facilities in the state. But suddenly, he claims it’s a crisis. Suddenly, it’s controversial. “These are done mostly in the middle of the night,” he claimed. “And it's clandestine.” He’s a liar. “While DeSantis claimed the state was not notified, the Biden administration briefed the Florida governor's office over the summer about the flights,” CNN reported.
DeSantis’ actions stand to be very damaging. Florida, along with California and Texas, welcome higher numbers of children compared to other states. Fellow extremist Texas Gov. Greg Abbott also pulled a similar anti-child, anti-immigrant stunt in his state, by the way.
“Although Texas authorities issued a rule that will allow these facilities to operate temporarily without licenses, without state oversight, inspection and guidelines, there is little guarantee that the facilities will be safe,” Young Center for Immigrant Children's Rights Senior Litigation Attorney Jane Liu and Young Center's Harlingen office Managing Wocial worker Carrie Vander Hoek wrote in Newsweek in September. But DeSantis doesn’t care. He wants to be president. Abbott doesn’t care. He wants to get through his primary.
“How is Ron DeSantis celebrating Christmas?” tweeted Thomas Kennedy, a frequent target of the thin-skinned DeSantis administration. “He is issuing an emergency order that bars state licenses for shelters that care for unaccompanied migrant minors in Florida. He is making sure these children suffer through the holidays. Absolutely monstrous and disgusting.”
“Governor DeSantis is yet again targeting immigrant communities across Florida, this time using children as pawns to further his anti-immigrant and xenophobic agenda,” said Southern Poverty Law Center Senior Supervising Attorney Anne Janet Hernandez Anderson. “With this order, Gov. DeSantis seeks to hide his failures from Floridians in a poorly managed pandemic response, an unprecedented affordable housing crisis, missing the deadline to apply for $2.3 billion in federal aid for Florida schools, and wasteful spending of $1.6M Florida taxpayer money for a trip to the border to further his political career.”