Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ first TV ad begins with a single premise: “While Biden fails, DeSantis leads.” In 30 seconds, it highlights the governor’s actions related to Israel, hurricane recovery and the southern U.S. border.
A clip shows a reporter speaking to a camera. “The DeSantis administration has launched an evacuation,” she says before the scene flashes to footage of an explosion followed by a “breaking news” clip of a EuroAtlantic plane taxiing on a runway and people deboarding the plane.
“Safely evacuated hundreds of stranded Americans out of Israel,” the ad’s narrator says. “After a catastrophic hurricane, they said it would take over six months. But DeSantis got people back in their homes and rebuilt bridges in just days. And DeSantis deployed troops to the southern border to stop the invasion.”
We found that although DeSantis responded in each of these scenarios, the ad omits context about the federal government’s actions and responsibilities during these events.
DeSantis arranged for flights out of Israel, but so did the State Department
DeSantis signed an executive order Oct. 12 allowing the state to evacuate Americans from Israel. Approximately 700 Americans have flown to Florida on four flights, according to an Oct. 24 statement by the governor’s office.
The Florida Division of Emergency Management told PolitiFact that the flights are expected to cost taxpayers approximately $32 million. The flights were free for passengers.
The ad could create the impression that the Biden administration failed to evacuate Americans, but that’s not so.
The Biden administration offered 6,900 seats to Americans in Israel seeking to depart by air, land or sea. About 1,500 U.S. citizens and their family members departed using federal government transport through Oct. 31, a State Department spokesperson told PolitiFact.
Per longstanding federal law and policy, the government seeks reimbursement from citizens for the cost of transportation. We couldn’t ascertain how much that will cost those people.
Deputy National Security Adviser Jon Finer told CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Nov. 5 that over several days, the U.S. got more than 300 Americans out of Gaza after the Rafah crossing opened into Egypt.
Florida troops went to border, but impact on illegal immigration is unclear
DeSantis twice sent Florida National Guard service members to the southern border during Biden’s presidency. But it’s unclear how those deployments have affected illegal immigration mitigation.
In May, the most recent deployment, DeSantis said he was sending 1,100 people to Texas — a mix of Florida National Guard soldiers and law enforcement officers. This came at Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s request following the expiration of a public health policy that allowed border patrol agents to quickly deport migrants who crossed the southern border.
The Texas Military Department said Florida’s National Guard soldiers would work with its Texas counterparts. But the National Guard troops and state law enforcement officers’ roles are limited. States cannot enforce immigration law, only the federal government can.
The Tampa Bay Times reported in July that DeSantis had spent more than $3 million to send personnel to Texas. A Florida National Guard spokesperson told PolitiFact the Florida National Guard members are no longer in Texas.
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According to DeSantis’ May announcement, Florida National Guard troops patrolled the border and provided engineering support.
Local law enforcement can arrest people and charge them for trespassing, theft, drug trafficking or vandalism, the Center for Immigration Studies, a think tank that favors low immigration levels, wrote. They cannot deport people.
The ad says DeSantis “deployed troops to the southern border to stop the invasion.” But experts told us the word “invasion” doesn’t accurately describe what’s happening at the border, where many immigrants turn themselves in to Border Patrol agents to seek asylum.
That is not behavior that you would typically attribute to an invader. Usually, the term invasion suggests people are forcibly entering another country to take it over.
Bridge repairs have been funded by state and federal government
Hurricane Ian made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane in Southwest Florida in September 2022. It caused over 150 deaths and over $112 billion in damage, the costliest hurricane in Florida’s history, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Pine Island and Sanibel Island were cut off from the mainland because their points of access were impassable, a Florida Department of Transportation spokesperson told PolitiFact. Although Lee County owns both bridges, DeSantis directed the state to provide support.
Temporary emergency repairs were made in three days to provide access to Pine Island. Temporary repairs to the Sanibel causeway took 15 days. The state set up a base camp on-site, and some employees lived there as work continued around the clock. A video by the state shows the extensive damage and repairs.
In March, DeSantis said the Sanibel causeway would be permanently repaired this year and cost $350 million. Permanent repairs to the Pine Island bridge will cost $25 million.
The state initiated the emergency repairs with state funds, and in 2023, the Florida Legislature allocated almost $52 million to Lee County for road and bridge work that the state said would not be covered by the federal government.
A U.S. Department of Transportation spokesperson told PolitiFact the department made $111.5 million available to the state for road and bridge repair related to Hurricane Ian, including $50 million it announced weeks after the hurricane.
PolitiFact staff writer Samantha Putterman contributed to this article.