- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 7, 2023

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is asking President Biden to allow tennis star Novak Djokovic into the U.S. to participate in the Miami Open, and has requested permission to bring him to Florida via boat to circumvent the COVID vaccine mandate for foreigners.

Mr. DeSantis, a Republican weighing a 2024 presidential run, slammed Mr. Biden for continuing to enforce COVID-19 vaccination requirements for foreigners seeking to enter the U.S. The rule has kept the unvaccinated Mr. Djokovic, a Serbian and number-one ranked tennis player in the world, from participating in any U.S. tennis tournaments.

Mr. Djokovic has been denied access to the Miami Open, which is scheduled for March 19 through April 2 at Indian Wells.

In the letter, Mr. DeSantis said thousands of unvaccinated illegal immigrants have been allowed into the U.S. through the southern border and called the ban on the top-ranked Mr. Djokovic, “unfair, unscientific and unacceptable.”

He asked Mr. Biden to confirm by March 10 that Mr. Djokovic can enter the country “via boat.”

Sens. Rick Scott and Marco Rubio, both Florida Republicans, wrote to Biden last week asking him to grant a waiver to allow Mr. Djokovic to compete.

In a letter sent to Mr. Biden Tuesday, Mr. DeSantis suggested he would do one better and help Mr. Djokovic to enter Florida by boat. An entrance via water would circumvent a requirement implemented by Mr. Biden in 2021 requiring nonimmigrant, non-U.S. citizens to be “fully vaccinated” against COVID before entering the U.S. by air.

A later Homeland Security directive, issued in 2022, extended the vaccine requirement to those coming into the U.S. via ports of entry from Mexico and Canada. The rule has not applied to illegal immigrants who have poured into the U.S. via Mexico.  

Asked by The Washington Times whether the governor would help Mr. Djokovic travel by boat to Florida to participate in the tournament, a DeSantis spokesman said,  “We hope to be able to assist Mr. Djokovic in his participation in the Miami Open in any way possible.”

Last week, the U.S. Open Tennis sided with Mr. Djokovic, writing on Twitter, “Novak Djokovic is one the greatest champions our sport has ever seen. The USTA and US Open are hopeful that Novak is successful in his petition to enter the country, and that the fans will be able to see him back in action at Indian Wells and Miami.”

Mr. Biden declared an end to the pandemic last September in an interview on “60 Minutes.”

“We still have a problem with COVID,” he said. “We’re still doing a lot of work on it. But the pandemic is over.”

For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.

• Susan Ferrechio can be reached at sferrechio@washingtontimes.com.

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