Media Contact

MEDIA CONTACT: ACLU of Florida Media office,, 786-363-2737

January 9, 2023

MIAMI, FL — On Friday, Governor DeSantis declared a state of emergency, calling for the deployment of the Florida National Guard after migrants seeking refuge arrived in the Florida Keys. The migrants are primarily arriving from Cuba and Haiti, fleeing extreme political and economic distress in their home countries.

For many, the journey to the Florida shore is a dangerous trip of hundreds of miles, often taken out of desperation and in unsafe conditions.

Tiffani Lennon, executive director for the ACLU of Florida, responded with the following statement:

“As migrants arrive at our shore, our number one priority as a state should be to ensure that every person is safe, healthy, cared for, and treated humanely. Many individuals and their families are arriving in extremely vulnerable conditions, fleeing political and economic instability, persecution, and violence that threatens their lives and ability to protect themselves and their families.

“As a nation and state that upholds human dignity, we must meet this moment with resolve. The right to asylum is a human right codified in international and domestic law. We cannot turn our backs on people seeking protection from violence and persecution.

“Instead of politicizing the issue, elected officials must work with groups on the ground and assist organizations that have stepped up to welcome and support migrants and people seeking asylum. Human beings should not be used to score political points, as we have seen time and time again by the DeSantis Administration and his allies in the legislature. DeSantis’ cruel attacks on immigrant communities, backed by false anti-immigrant propaganda, further divide Floridians. Instead, we should unite around the fact that our state has and continues to flourish because of the contributions made by people around the world.

“All people should be treated with dignity and respect, including children and families seeking asylum. We should be uniting and caring for people, not dividing, traumatizing, and placing them at risk.

“Migrants who are now beginning their journey in seeking asylum represent the latest generation in our country’s long history of welcoming people who arrive at our doorstep fleeing persecution and violence. Their stories echo those of many prior generations of newcomers who have come to this country in search of safety and a new beginning for themselves and their families.

“Immigrants and their families are an integral part of Florida’s fabric. Our state has a long history of welcoming migrants from Cuba, Haiti and other countries in search of safety and refuge. Florida would not be what it is today without those brave families who overcame significant challenges to start new lives in Florida. Today, all of our state’s communities benefit from immigrants’ contributions, and we will continue to fight for the rights of immigrants arriving in Florida. Our democracy works best when people seeking refuge are welcomed and protected.”