Radio ads in Spanish taking aim at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis over his support of immigration measures affecting migrant children began airing Tuesday on AM and FM radio stations.
The six-figure ad buy is among the first in South Florida to target DeSantis, a Republican seeking a second term in November.
DeSantis is targeting shelters that care for unaccompanied migrant children as part of an ongoing feud with President Joe Biden over his immigration policies. DeSantis recently ordered state regulators not to issue licenses to federally funded shelters that house unaccompanied migrant children. Two bills being considered would also bar the state from doing business with companies that transport undocumented migrants into the state.
The ad was released by the American Business Immigration Coalition Action, a bipartisan group of 1,200 business leaders who advocate for immigration reform. Many of the organization’s donors are Republican or former Republicans who are now independent.
“Disgusting? Disgusting is that Governor DeSantis is trying to benefit himself politically by attacking innocent immigrant children who are only seeking refuge. And to top it off, he did it in Miami, Florida’s own Ellis Island,” a woman says in Spanish at the beginning of the ad.
The ad refers to comments DeSantis made last week at a news conference in Miami, which has a robust immigrant population, where he said it was “disgusting” to compare the current situation regarding unaccompanied migrant children to the unaccompanied children who arrived from Cuba in the 1960s after Fidel Castro's communist takeover.
Several Cuban Americans who came to the U.S. in the 1960s through Operation Pedro Pan, which brought thousands of Cuban children to the U.S., joined DeSantis at the news conference.
But other Cuban Americans who also arrived in the U.S. as children under Operation Pedro Pan held another news conference last week with Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski, criticizing DeSantis over his policies.
Mike Fernández, a wealthy donor who left the Republican Party and is now an independent, told NBC News that DeSantis is a “Trump wannabe.”
“DeSantis wants to be a ruler and it is hypocritical for us Cuban Americans who escaped a dictator to come to this country and embrace another one who wants to be,” said Fernández, who came to Miami as a child with his parents and has been highly successful in the healthcare service industry.
“Right now being on DeSantis’ side and being on the side of this bill is complicit with something that is wrong.”
“So I am hoping that my Cuban American friends and family ... see that these children are our future, the same way 60 years ago we became Miami’s future," Fernández said.
The governor remains popular among the state's Hispanics, and in polls for 2024, he's an early favorite for the GOP presidential nomination, in the event former President Donald Trump doesn’t run again.
In 2020, Republicans won big in Florida, flipping two congressional seats and winning competitive state House and Senate races. Biden fell short of the big margins he needed in Miami-Dade County to win the state.
Trump won nearly 50 percent of the state's Latino vote in 2020. Democrats have expressed concern that the national party and national donors have ignored Florida as a target state in the 2022 midterms.
Eduardo Padrón, an education leader who came to the U.S. through Pedro Pan when he was 12 and spent decades at the helm of Miami-Dade College, says that what is happening now with unaccompanied children is “inhumane.”
Padrón, who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016, said the current situation has brought back memories of what he went through.
“I cried all the way, from Cuba to Miami. And many, many nights after that,” Padrón said. “Parents, who are very loving, made the most courageous, difficult decision that any parent can make, which is to separate from their children, not knowing whether they would ever see them again.” He said parents now are making the same sacrifice.