2013 Immigration Deal Was Prelude to Trump

  • DeSantis criticized congressional Republicans over the issue of immigration in his new book.
  • He accuses the party of being out of touch. 
  • DeSantis made the comments in his new book, “The Courage to Be Free.” 

In his forthcoming book, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis reserves some of his most scathing criticism of congressional Republicans for how the party has handled the issue of immigration. 

In “The Courage to Be Free: Florida’s Blueprint for America’s Revival,” DeSantis writes critically about the 2013 “Gang of Eight” bipartisan immigration bill, which was being considered during his first year in the US House. 

“Of all the issues on which GOP leaders had ignored their voters, on no issue did they do so more consistently and more flagrantly than on the issue of immigration,” he writes. 

Formally known as the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, the “Gang of Eight” bill would have helped more people already living in the US illegally to receive citizenship and reduced visa backlogs for work and education. 

The bill passed the US Senate but died in the US House, which let the legislation expire after GOP Rep. Eric Cantor, a top candidate for speaker, stunningly lost his seat in Virginia to Tea Party challenger David Brat. The election was largely decided on the issue of immigration, with Brat accusing his opponent of being too soft on the issue. 

The defeat, DeSantis wrote, “was a prelude to the nomination of Donald Trump,” which would come two years later.  Trump would rise to power on promises to ban Muslims from entering the US and to build a wall between the US and Mexico. 

As governor, DeSantis also has come out as a hardliner on immigration. He rolled out a proposal last week that would make it harder for undocumented immigrants to work in Florida or to receive in-state tuition for college. 

He’s widely expected to seek the GOP nomination for president in 2024. So far he has emerged as the greatest threat to Trump, whose anti-immigration rhetoric and actions whipped up his base and led to numerous lawsuits and public backlash. 

DeSantis has publicly criticized his own party on illegal immigration before, saying they were too much talk and not enough action.  

“If they get majorities in the Congress, I’m sick of them talking,” he said at a fundraiser in Hollywood, Florida, last year during a tirade against President Joe Biden’s border policies. “I’m sick of them telling us what they’re going to do. I’m sick of them going on cable and doing this, and prattling.”

DeSantis last year authorized sending two planes filled with Venezuelan and Colombian migrants to Martha’s Vineyard, the vacation island in Massachusetts, as part of a political stunt aimed at opposing Biden’s border policy. He plans to expand the program this year. 

DeSantis’ memoir, out Tuesday, is being billed by his team as a blueprint other Republicans should follow. In it, he doubled down against illegal immigration, writing that the “Gang of Eight” bill was intended by the “Republican intelligentsia inside the Beltway” to win over more Hispanic voters and to help corporate interests seeking cheap labor.

DeSantis pushes back on that perspective in his book, writing that he thought the issues of economy, crime, and education were more important to Hispanic voters. Hispanic voters in Florida went overwhelmingly for DeSantis during his reelection in November — by 14% — over Democratic challenger former Rep. Charlie Crist. 

“From playing footsie with mass amnesty to advocating for large expansions of immigration levels, the DC Republican establishment was woefully out of touch with the people who voted them into office in the first place,” Desantis wrote. 

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