Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis spoke at the 2017 conference of ACT for America, which the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as a “designated hate group” and the American Defamation League classifies the organization as the nation’s largest anti-Muslim group. Below are the recording of this appearance by DeSantis and the transcript. You can also read FCIR’s story about this recording.

QUESTION: [Inaudible] What is it that allows them that leniency?

DeSANTIS: Well, I don’t think that the– The question is about the courts and they’re from Minnesota and so you have issues with refugees and all this other stuff. So how do the courts inject themselves in that? Look, there are some times when the courts have a legitimate role to decide a case or controversy. I mean, if you have a statute and you have the constitution and there’s a conflict, you’ve got to resolve that. But in this instance, the president is obviously commander-in-chief under Article II of the Constitution. Congress has enacted a law telling the president, “You have the authority to prevent different classes of aliens from coming into the country based on national security considerations.” It is as broad a grant of authority as you can possibly have. So, the Congress, we obviously have authority over naturalization and the different laws that go into that. So that’s been a law that’s been on the books for an awful long time and so the president took that, and people say, “It’s a Muslim ban.” But he only did seven countries, and the most populous Muslim country, Indonesia, wasn’t even on there. There were other major Muslim countries that weren’t on there, because it wasn’t about the Muslim religion, per se. It was about areas where threat emanate. And so you have different parts of the world where the threat matrix is not the same. If you look at some of the countries that they identified, Somalia, very problematic. Syria, I mean there’s no government there, so it’s a total disaster. And so these are areas that there are threats, and even the Obama administration acknowledged, “We don’t really know who’s coming in from these countries, because there’s been such a breakdown.” So that was done to kind of put a pause on that, so that they could develop policies to basically say, “Look, we gotta err on the side of protecting the American people. If we can’t be sure we’re doing that, then we’re gonna have a moratorium on people coming in from that part of the world.” And that’s just the reality, so it was a court that cast aside that and what they basically did was say, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, the statute says this. Yeah, yeah, yeah, he acted pursuant to the statute. But in a campaign, he said X, Y and Z. Therefore, it’s a Muslim ban; it’s a violation– it’s a religious discrimination thing. And that’s what they tried to say. And there’s a question about how there’s some of these– some of those constitutional provisions, whether they even apply to people trying to come in or not. Put that aside. The courts basically said, “This is fine, but because it’s Trump, we’re gonna try to stop it.” And the Supreme Court reeled that back in, and now the issue is basically moot because they did the new travel restrictions, and they did kind of like a justification as to why, why they’re doing it. But it is a– Here’s the thing about the refugee, the immigration, all this stuff, what’s the purpose of immigration for the United States? Is it to provide entitlements to foreign nationals? I don’t think that. The purpose should be to benefit the American people. So if you have–

[Audience claps]

DeSANTIS: So you have a lot of people that have come from different parts of the world who believed in what American stands for, who will kiss the ground because they’re in a free country, and they’ve done great things in our country. And I think that’s a good thing. But you have some folks who aren’t obviously offering us very much, and then potentially can present a risk. And so for me, I would just err on the side of caution because nobody has a right to come here. We’ve got to have this orderly, and it’s gotta be done with circumspection. And so I think that’s what the president was trying to do, and I think there’s five votes on the Supreme Court right now who are basically going to say, “Look, the president is acting within his authority.” But I think you’ll see more of these cases, because Obama really stacked the federal courts. I mean, people look at the Supreme Court, and he did Ginsburg and Sotomayor, and they replaced left-leaning justices, and so there wasn’t a major change in the court. But the number of District judges and Circuit Court of Appeals judges that he was able to put on in eight years was significant, and so you’re not in a situation where you’re gonna win in a lot of those courts right now. Trump has done a really good job of putting in good people on the Circuit court level. Obviously I think Gorsuch has been a good selection for the U.S. Supreme Court. But in the second tier of courts, the Court of Appeals, he’s fortifying that with people who are constitutionalists rather than activists. And that’s what you want — judges that will apply the law as written, that are not going to legislate from the bench.

QUESTION: Yeah, uh, on the Draw Mohammed attacks. [Inaudible] The other guy knew these guys [inaudible]. Has anybody investigated how far along the FBI followed them? Now there’s a report that–

DeSANTIS: What, who is this?

QUESTION: The Draw Mohammed attack in Garland, Texas.

DeSANTIS: Oh, OK. So when was that? That was in 20–

QUESTION: A couple of years ago.


QUESTION: Yeah. Now, they said that the FBI knew these two gentlemen were coming. Did anybody ever follow up on how far along [inaudible]. They followed them to Texas because [inaudible] the only person to be shot was a security guard, and he is suing the FBI because they knew and didn’t warn those people. [Inaudible]

DeSANTIS: So I have not heard whether anyone has done that or whether we’ve had– We haven’t on any of my committees. I don’t know if on Homeland Security [committee] that they did anything in that regard. So I just don’t know whether it’s been done or not. It may not have been done. And obviously that’s a legitimate issue and a legitimate concern. Yes, sir.

QUESTION: [Inaudible]

DeSANTIS: The question is what’s holding up the Muslim Brotherhood designation. Well, it’s interesting. We passed the committee last Congress, and I thought for sure that would be a great thing to do. Of course Obama was going to oppose that, but why not do it and raise the issue? Now the situation is I think they’re waiting for Trump, the administration, to do something. And they don’t want to necessarily undercut the administration. I asked (John J.) Sullivan, the deputy secretary of state, last week, “Are you guys going to designate?” And they said it’s under review. But it’s been under review since February. So at some point we need to get a resolution, and if they’re not going to do it, then I think Congress can say, “Hey, we need to raise this issue and move it forward.” I think that your– I think the president is inclined to want to designate, but I think you have a lot of the career people in the State Department saying, “No, no, no, don’t do it.” But they’re more Arabist in outlook, and that’s just kinda their view. And you remember in Egypt, after Mubarak was deposed, the Obama State Department was all in with the Brotherhood. I mean, they thought the Brotherhood would really be the way forward for Egypt and that you’d be able to do all these– Clearly that didn’t work. But I think that there’s residue of that still in the State Department. Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Why can’t we get the change to the language on refugee resettlement to deal with trafficking? With Obama, the church [inaudible] institutions get paid X bigger dollars for human trafficking. I think you [inaudible] that issue of human trafficking, we could bring some more light to some of the other problems.

DeSANTIS: Well I think it’s– I think there are– This is being dealt with in the congress now to a certain extent. But I think that the trafficking element is a good point, because when Obama did the DACA, when that went into effect, the next summer saw this massive surge of people coming across the border with minors. And there were even minors being smuggled across without any adult. And there was definitely a significant number of those individuals who were caught up in human trafficking, and it’s a big problem. It’s a big problem around the world, but that kind of– his policy really incentivized and facilitated more of that to happen. And that’s clearly not a good thing for our country, but there are– People are looking in the congress legislatively about the refugee stuff, about our asylum stuff. I mean, I’m supportive of, you know, asylum, but it’s like you just show up and say, “Asylum,” without there being any facts? Obama would just say, “You stay; doesn’t matter.” So that really got out of whack, and you saw the number of people really grow who were claiming that. And you’ve got to tighten that up so that it’s actually people who are being oppressed. So, yep.

QUESTION: Hi. You were just talking about asylum. So I’m in law school and the two refugees that were there [inaudible]–

DeSANTIS: Right.

QUESTION: How come there’s nothing on the passport that you flag if somebody’s leaving [inaudible].

DeSANTIS: No, look, I think that’s a great question. So the issue is, if you’re seeking refugee status from some country, and you see this a lot actually in Minnesota, with the Somalis. They come because they’re refugees, because the country’s so bad. Yet they’ll travel back and forth to the countries. Well, that’s not exactly being a refugee if you’re just freely traveling back and forth, then the country may not necessarily be so bad if you’re voluntarily going back there. So I think that’s a good point and I think that, look, there’s a lot problems in the world, but the number of countries that truly are sending refugees is just less than what is being allowed now. That’s just the reality. So we want to make sure– I think that’s a great– If they’re traveling back and forth, that should cause you some pause in some of this stuff.

QUESTION: [Inaudible]

DeSANTIS: Well, some of this stuff is just, “Are you really–?” Some of the countries, I mean, they’re not necessarily really refugees as they were supposed to be viewed as refugees. It’s more of, “Yeah, the country’s bad, so we’re coming to the United States.” But if you’re going to go back and visit every [inaudible]. A lot of these guys who got convicted were going back to Somalia and doing–

QUESTION: [Inaudible] He went back to Chechnya. There should be something in place the passport [inaudible] that they can flag these people, because it’s happening. People are traveling to Syria.

DeSANTIS: I know. Well, to me, I asked (FBI Director James) Comey this a couple of years ago, and I said, “OK, somebody goes and then comes back, you know, do you guys let him back in the country?” And he basically said, “Yeah.” He’s like, “We’ll monitor them,” but they let them back in the country. It’s just frustrating. Yes, sir.

QUESTION: First of all, thank you very much for [inaudible].


QUESTION: In answer to the Muslim Brotherhood question, I think you pretty much delineated what the problem is here. And we’re all being asked — and we’re all committed — to the fight to stay strong, don’t be fearful, and in the answer you gave to the question, you indicated that all the delay in making the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization is because the swamp is [inaudible]. The time for delay has ended; it’s done. You cannot delay any longer.

[Audience claps]

QUESTION: [Inaudible] terrorist designation. The money that is being funneled by the Muslim Brotherhood and all its related, the Holy Land Foundation project, all the unindicted co-conspirators. [Inaudible]

[Audience claps]

DeSANTIS: So I think it’s great that, you know, with the Brotherhood, the time for delay is over. They’ve been looking at this in the State Department for months and months now, and it doesn’t take– You spend like a week studying this issue, and you’re gonna see this is a problem, and you need to do something about it. The Holy Land Foundation trial, I can tell you this — that I was able to meet with a couple other members with (Attorney General) Jeff Sessions recently and there was a request to him that all of the FBI documents be given to Congress from the Holy Land Foundation trial. And really use that to help hold people accountable. We have some more great members of Congress who’ve just come, and it’s an honor to be with you guys. Thank you.