DeSantis touts results from anti-illegal immigrant moves, as ‘sanctuary’ cities struggle with migrant influx

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is touting results in his efforts to make sure Florida is not an attractive destination for illegal immigrants, as new data show that the state’s Medicaid spending on illegal immigrants has dropped sharply.

State data obtained by Fox News Digital shows that in FY 2022-2023, $159 million in state and federal dollars went to Medicaid for immigrants. In May 2023, DeSantis signed a law that included a provision that requires hospitals to collect and submit data on the costs of providing health care to illegal immigrants, meaning they must ask patients their immigration status. That went into effect in July 2023, when the new fiscal year began for the state.

So far in FY 23-24 as of May (with two months still remaining), the amount spent on Florida’s Emergency Medical Assistance program has dropped to $67 million, a drop of over 50%.


The data was first reported by Politico, which noted the connection between the law and the drop in Medicaid spending. While patients aren’t forced to answer, activists warned that it could have a chilling effect on immigrants seeking medical care. Illegal immigrants are not eligible for Medicaid under federal law, but states are required to provide care in an emergency.

The bill DeSantis signed included other provisions designed to make Florida less welcoming for those who have entered illegally. They include mandatory E-Verify, a ban on NGOs and local governments issuing IDs to illegal immigrants, moves to suspend licenses of employers who employ illegal immigrants, and more money for a transport program to move illegal immigrants to “sanctuary” jurisdictions.

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Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a press conference in Sanford, Florida, on April 8, 2024. (Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

In remarks on “Hannity,” DeSantis noted he had already banned “sanctuary” jurisdictions in Florida, but took more action when President Biden entered the White House.

“We knew we’d get no support from the federal government. So we’ve had to do all these different things at the state level to be able to deter illegal immigration into our state,” he said.

He also connected the law to the drop in Medicaid spending: “We made sure when you have people show up at the hospital that we’re asking about immigration status, and that’s caused the Medicaid expenditures to plummet by 50%,” he said.

In remarks to reporters he noted other moves, including increasing enforcement to the southern Florida coast to stop illegal immigrants getting in by boat, transports of migrants to places like Martha’s Vineyard and sending troops to Texas to help stop illegal immigration.


He also noted legislation that prevented driver’s licenses given to illegal immigrants in other states from being recognized in the Sunshine State.

“So we’ve been able to do a lot on that to deter people from wanting to come,” he said.

The moves have sparked outrage from immigration activists, who say the moves are cruel and anti-immigrant. Meanwhile, some businesses have said they have seen an exodus of workers, which is hurting their bottom line in industries like agriculture. 

“Maybe they think the crops are gonna pick themselves,” one business owner told NPR in April.


Migrants Bus

Migrants board a city bus to a shelter intake center after traveling from Del Rio, Texas, at the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York, on May 13, 2023. (Victor J. Blue/Getty Images)

But while places like Miami have traditionally been a key arrival point for illegal immigrants, Florida has avoided some of the hazards connected to the migrant crisis that have left some blue cities and states struggling.

Last week, Mass. Gov. Maura Healey sent officials to the border to warn migrants that the state’s shelter system is full and cannot accept new arrivals. Healey had declared a state of emergency last year over the crisis.

Elsewhere, cities like New York City, Boston and Chicago have pleaded with the federal government to give them more funding and migrants expedited work permits in order to alleviate the burdens that the surge in new arrivals has caused. Those cities and states have often stressed their more welcoming approach to migrants, and have even in some cases admitted it may be encouraging migration.

The moves tap into a national debate over how to handle illegal immigration. The Biden administration has taken measures to make the process at the border more orderly, in a way it says is more in line with U.S. values. It has called for Congress to provide more funding and sweeping immigration reforms to make that happen.


Republicans, meanwhile, have blamed the administration for fueling the crisis with its policies, and have called for stricter border security and limits on entry into the United States.

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