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Ron DeSantis tours the Texas border ahead of rolling out his immigration platform

Amid sagging national poll numbers, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis toured part of the Texas border Sunday as he prepared to roll out new immigration policy proposals and justify sending hundreds of his state’s personnel to help manage a migrant influx.

DeSantis spokesman Andrew Romeo said the campaign plans to shift in coming weeks from highlighting his success in Florida to taking more direct aim at what it sees as President Joe Biden’s failures.

“Joe Biden’s open border policies have destroyed our sovereignty,” Romeo said.

Republican presidential candidate Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in Washington on June 23, 2023.
Republican presidential candidate Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in Washington on June 23, 2023.Michael Brochstein / Sipa USA via AP

On Monday, DeSantis will release his plan to secure the border, which will be the first formal campaign policy of his presidential run.

DeSantis has increasingly attacked his main rival, former President Donald Trump, on immigration. But so far, those jabs have failed to gain traction: A new NBC News national poll found 51% of Republican primary voters picked Trump as their first choice in the race for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, while DeSantis drew just 22%. Trump has widened his lead since DeSantis’ glitch-filled campaign launch last month.

On Friday, DeSantis reiterated a typical part of his stump speech in his remarks at the Faith and Freedom Coalition conference in Washington, D.C.

“I will finally be the president to bring the issue of our open southern border to a conclusion,” he said. “On day one, we declare a national emergency. We mobilize all the assets, including the military.”

The Trump campaign, meanwhile, responded by listing what it says are more than 100 “major reforms” related to immigration that were instituted during his administration, including a high number of deportations and implementation of the pandemic-era border restriction known as Title 42.

On Friday, Trump told the audience of Christian conservatives at the conference that he would sign an executive order ending automatic citizenship for children of undocumented immigrants.

“We had the most successful and strongest border in American history,” Trump said.

DeSantis made a separate border trip this month to Arizona, but that was billed as an official state visit, not a campaign stop. This visit to Texas will include a stop at a Veterans of Foreign Wars hall Monday to speak with voters.

In May, DeSantis announced that he would send 1,100 personnel to the Texas border. More than 400 members of the Florida National Guard are deployed there; they’re spread across roughly 500 miles from Eagle Pass to Brownsville, said Amelia Johnson, a deputy director with the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

DeSantis’ office announced this month that the Florida teams had encountered more than 5,800 undocumented migrants and helped the Texas Department of Public Safety with more than 190 arrests, in cases including felony charges connected to drugs, weapons and human smuggling.