Ron DeSantis stands in front of the Rio Grande, looking grim.

Ron DeSantis Adds Extrajudicial Killings to His Already Horrifying Plan for the Southern Border

Out on the presidential campaign trail, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is fighting to come off less like a repulsive weirdo and more like a potential leader of the free world, but it’s hard when he can’t stop sounding like a murderous psychopath. Earlier this month, he was out there promising he’d be “slitting throats” from day one, which we can only hope means something as benignly awful as firing people.

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Unfortunately, his unnecessarily violent rhetoric has taken a turn for the more literal, as he vows to use more lethal force against people at the southern border.

“We’re going to authorize the use of deadly force against the cartels,” he told right-wing radio host Erick Erickson on Friday. “If you have somebody coming in with the fentanyl in the backpack, they even break through the border wall where there is wall, if they’re doing that, that’s the last thing they’re going to be able to do because we’re going to leave them stone cold dead at the border.”

DeSantis repeated his disturbing promise to a crowd in Florida on Monday. Even worse, it was an applause line.

Since his plan is apparently for border agents to shoot first and search those backpacks later, the victims are likely to be immigrant families hoping to apply for asylum, rather than drug runners breaking through walls like some villainous Incredible Hulk. Killing people for the misdemeanor offense of walking across the border without proper documentation isn’t even likely to do much to address the country’s fentanyl crisis, because they’re not the ones carrying it. Most mules are US citizens smuggling it through legal ports of entry—think Nancy Botwin in Season 4 of “Weeds.” I think we can assume DeSantis is not planning on shooting drug mules who look like Mary-Louise Parker, though.

Whether someone is actually in possession of a visa or a controlled substance or whatever is beside the point, though. He’s talking about executing people on the spot, without a trial. And yes, American law enforcement officers have been known to do just that, especially to people of color, but not with the leader of the executive branch saying, “Yeah, go for it! Shoot ’em all dead!” Even former president Donald Trump, famous for his violent and racist rhetoric, was slightly more subtle more that.

Conservatives tend to reference the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution mostly when they’re pleading the Fifth, but there’s some great stuff in there about due process that they should definitely check out. Killing people at the border would also probably violate international standards on respecting the human rights of migrants, something the United States is already not great at.

In a field of extremists, DeSantis had already staked out one of the most extreme positions on immigration and border policy, with his campaign promise to end birthright citizenship for children of undocumented immigrants. Such a policy would mean that being born in the United States would no longer guarantee U.S. citizenship—if it were actually possible. The Fourteenth Amendment (yep, that pesky Constitution again) clearly states that “all persons born or naturalized in the United States … are citizens of the United States.”

With Trump facing four indictments, 91 criminal charges, and counting, DeSantis is clearly hoping to win over some MAGA voters, maybe those who prefer their blatant racism and fascism with a little less legal baggage and a lot more off-putting eating habits, if those even exist. It seems like a weird strategy to me, but hey, that’s DeSantis. I don’t know about his presidential chances, but at this rate, he at least has a chance at being voted most deranged on the debate stage.

(featured image: Brandon Bell/Getty Images)


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Erika Wittekind
Erika Wittekind (she/her) is a contributing writer covering politics and news and has two decades of experience in local news reporting, freelance writing, and nonfiction editing. Hobbies and special interests include hiking, dancing in the kitchen, trying to raise empathetic teen boys, and keeping plants alive. Find her on Mastodon at @erikalyn.newsie.social.