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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a candidate for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, greets people at Iowa State University on Sept. 9, 2023, in Ames, Iowa. (AP) Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a candidate for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, greets people at Iowa State University on Sept. 9, 2023, in Ames, Iowa. (AP)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a candidate for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, greets people at Iowa State University on Sept. 9, 2023, in Ames, Iowa. (AP)

Maria Ramirez Uribe
By Maria Ramirez Uribe November 6, 2023
Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman November 6, 2023

If Your Time is short

  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis arranged to fly about 700 Americans out of Israel in October. The flights were free for passengers. The federal government evacuated about 1,500 Americans but charged them, per federal law.

  • Both the state and federal government are paying for road and bridge repairs following Hurricane Ian, which hit southwest Florida in 2022.

  • Florida sent more than 1,000 Florida National Guard soldiers and law enforcement officers to Texas to help with border security in 2023. The Biden administration has also deployed thousands of National Guard soldiers to the border.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ first TV ad begins with a single premise: "While Biden fails, DeSantis leads." In 30 seconds, it highlights the governor’s actions related to Israel, hurricane recovery and the southern U.S. border.

A clip shows a reporter speaking to a camera. "The DeSantis administration has launched an evacuation," she says before the scene flashes to footage of an explosion followed by a "breaking news" clip of a EuroAtlantic plane taxiing on a runway and people deboarding the plane.

"Safely evacuated hundreds of stranded Americans out of Israel," the ad’s narrator says. "After a catastrophic hurricane, they said it would take over six months. But DeSantis got people back in their homes and rebuilt bridges in just days. And DeSantis deployed troops to the southern border to stop the invasion."

We found that although DeSantis responded in each of these scenarios, the ad omits context about the federal government’s actions and responsibilities during these events.

DeSantis arranged for flights out of Israel, but so did the State Department

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, candidate for the 2024 presidential nomination, Oct. 28, 2023, at an annual leadership meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas. (AP)

DeSantis signed an executive order Oct. 12 allowing the state to evacuate Americans from Israel. Approximately 700 Americans have flown to Florida on four flights, according to an Oct. 24 statement by the governor’s office. 

The Florida Division of Emergency Management told PolitiFact that the flights are expected to cost taxpayers approximately $32 million. The flights were free for passengers.

The ad could create the impression that the Biden administration failed to evacuate Americans, but that’s not so. 

The Biden administration offered 6,900 seats to Americans in Israel seeking to depart by air, land or sea. About 1,500 U.S. citizens and their family members departed using federal government transport through Oct. 31, a State Department spokesperson told PolitiFact. 

Per longstanding federal law and policy, the government seeks reimbursement from citizens for the cost of transportation. We couldn’t ascertain how much the flight will cost those people. 

Deputy National Security Adviser Jon Finer told CBS’ "Face the Nation" on Nov. 5 that over several days, the U.S. got more than 300 Americans from Gaza after the Rafah crossing opened into Egypt.

Florida troops went to border, but impact on illegal immigration is unclear

DeSantis twice sent Florida National Guard service members to the southern border during Biden’s presidency. But it’s unclear how those deployments have affected illegal immigration mitigation. 

In May, the most recent deployment, DeSantis said he was sending 1,100 people to Texas — a mix of Florida National Guard soldiers and law enforcement officers. This came at Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s request, following the expiration of a public health policy that allowed border patrol agents to quickly deport migrants who crossed the southern border. 

The Texas Military Department said Florida’s National Guard soldiers would work with its Texas counterparts. But the National Guard troops and state law enforcement officers’ roles are limited. States cannot enforce immigration law, only the federal government can. 

The Tampa Bay Times reported in July that DeSantis had spent more than $3 million to send personnel to Texas. A Florida National Guard spokesperson told PolitiFact the Florida National Guard members are no longer in Texas. 

Biden has also deployed thousands of National Guard soldiers to help immigration officials at the border with administrative tasks. At least 2,500 National Guard members are at the border now. 

According to DeSantis’ May announcement, Florida National Guard troops patrolled the border and provided engineering support. 

Local law enforcement can arrest people and charge them for trespassing, theft, drug trafficking or vandalism, the Center for Immigration Studies, a think tank that favors low immigration levels, wrote. They cannot deport people. 

The ad says DeSantis "deployed troops to the southern border to stop the invasion." But experts told us the word "invasion" doesn’t accurately describe what’s happening at the border where many immigrants turn themselves into Border Patrol agents to seek asylum.

That is not behavior that you would typically attribute to an invader. Usually, the term invasion suggests people are forcibly entering another country to take it over.

Bridge repairs have been funded by state and federal government

A damaged causeway to Sanibel Island is seen Sept. 29, 2022, in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian near Sanibel Island, Fla. (AP)

Hurricane Ian made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane in southwest Florida in September 2022.  It caused over 150 deaths and over $112 billion in damage, the costliest hurricane in Florida’s history, according to the National Hurricane Center. 

Pine Island and Sanibel Island were cut off from the mainland because their points of access were impassable, a Florida Department of Transportation spokesperson told PolitiFact. Although Lee County owns both bridges, DeSantis directed the state to provide support. 

Temporary emergency repairs were made in three days to provide access to Pine Island. Temporary repairs to the Sanibel causeway took 15 days. The state set up a basecamp on site and some employees lived on site as work continued around the clock. A video by the state shows the extensive damage and repairs.

In March, DeSantis said the Sanibel causeway would be permanently repaired this year and cost $350 million. Permanent repairs to the Pine Island bridge will cost $25 million.

The state initiated the emergency repairs with state funds and in 2023, the Florida Legislature allocated almost $52 million for Lee County for road and bridge work that the state said would not be covered by the federal government.

A U.S. Department of Transportation spokesperson told PolitiFact the department made $111.5 million available to the state for road and bridge repair related to Hurricane Ian, including $50 million it announced weeks after the hurricane.

PolitiFact Staff Writer Samantha Putterman contributed to this article.

RELATED: More than 50 fact-checks of DeSantis

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Our Sources

Des Moines Register, Ron DeSantis presidential campaign expedites Iowa ad buy, launching earlier than planned, Nov. 1, 2023

Gov. Ron DeSantis. Campaign ad, Nov. 1, 2023

Gov. Ron DeSantis, Press release about Pine Island hurricane repairs, Oct. 5, 2022

Gov. Ron DeSantis, Press release about hurricane recovery, March 17, 2023

Gov. Ron DeSantis, Executive order, Oct. 12, 2023

Gov. Ron DeSantis, Press release about bridge repair, Oct. 19, 2023

Gov. Ron DeSantis, Press release about Israel evacuations, Oct. 24, 2023

Gov. Ron DeSantis, Press release about Hurricane Ian recovery, Sept. 28, 2023

Florida Department of Transportation, Pine Island causeway and bridge reconstruction, Accessed Nov. 2, 2023

Florida Department of Transportation, Video about Hurricane Ian damages and repair, Related to September 2022 hurricane

Desantis campaign press release, Nov. 1, 2023

AP, ​​DeSantis to send Florida National Guard soldiers to Texas for border security, May 16, 2023

WPTV, Gov. Ron DeSantis says 700 Americans flown back to Florida on 4 flights from Israel, Oct. 24, 2023

National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Ian tropical cyclone report, April 3, 2023

WFLA, Bridge to Pine Island repaired in less than three days, Oct. 6, 2022

NBC News, Why the Israel-Hamas war has soared into the top issues for Iowa GOP voters, Nov. 1, 2023

State Department, Statement to PolitiFact, Oct. 30-Nov. 2, 2023

State Department, Media briefing, Nov. 1, 2023

U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, Statement to PolitiFact, Nov. 2-3, 2023

Email interview, Betsy Clayton, spokesperson, Lee County Government, Nov. 2, 2023

Email interview, Jessica Ottaviano, spokesperson for the Florida Department of Transportation, Nov. 3, 2023

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