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EXCLUSIVE: Florida Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez is dismissing comparisons between a decades-old Cuban migrant program and the current policies of the Biden administration as she blasted the “illegal immigration chaos” at the border.
The Cuban-American Republican spoke to Fox News Digital on Tuesday and was asked about the crisis at the southern border. Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration has been at loggerheads with the Biden administration about migrant flights of unaccompanied children into the interior, as well as other related border policies.
Nuñez said the crisis at the border has been “nothing short of disastrous” and said the impact on Florida has been “tremendous” even though it is not a border state, and touted DeSantis’ response to the crisis.
“So what the governor has been doing, he’s been fighting illegal immigration every step of the way since he took office,” she said. “And some of those issues have really flared up. And what we’ve seen of late is an increase in human trafficking, drug smuggling, people that are being utilized, children that are crossing the border, being recycled by coyotes to human traffickers, the criminals themselves posing as minors. And so all of this has escalated to a level that is very concerning.”
There were more than 178,840 migrant encounters at the border in December, after a fiscal year that saw approximately 1.7 million encounters that overwhelmed border agents and the mass release of migrants into the U.S. interior.
While there has recently been a growing number of Cubans coming to the border, Nuñez rejected comparisons made by some activists to the 1960s “Operation Pedro Pan” program, which saw approximately 14,000 Cuban children brought to the country in a two-year period.
Nuñez notes that the program, unlike the situation at the border, was vetted, legally administered and was designed to stop Cuban children being indoctrinated or persecuted by the Castro regime.
“When you try to conflate those two, it really just starts to tear away at the essence of your argument,” she said. “Again, it was a program that was legal — within the legal immigration laws of the country at the time — it was vetted, it was organized. These children that came to this country, they had passports, they had documentation, they had the contact information of their families. And it was all with the express purpose of trying to reunite those individuals with their families.”
Nuñez shared the story of how her family came to America from the communist regime — and how they came to the U.S. legally at great sacrifice.
“Neither of my parents came through that program. They were a little bit older at the time, but my Dad had to come first,” she said. “He had a visa prior to the time when the Embassy broke relations diplomatically with the United States in Cuba.”
“And so my Dad had to leave behind his wife and my oldest sister and infant child because they followed the laws of this country. And so I think it’s incumbent upon us to start to really highlight and begin to notice the stark differences between an illegal immigration chaos at the border that Biden has not only perpetuated but has incentivized, with a program back in the early 60s that was limited. It was finite and with the express purpose of allowing people the opportunity to seek asylum from political persecution, and that program for political asylum is still in place today. But there is a stark difference between the two.”
She emphasized the responsibility of the federal government, rather than states like Florida to combat the crisis at the border, and criticized the administration for its alleged secrecy over the migrant flights — a claim that the White House has denied.
“We need for the government to take care of the crisis at the border. Again, Florida is being impacted, as is every other state when you see secret flights that are taking place overnight. No information whatsoever, even though we’ve consistently asked to know what they’re doing, who they’re bringing into our state.”