Gov. Ron DeSantis said Friday he expects more flights to carry undocumented immigrants to out-of-state “sanctuary” communities, as questions continue to swirl about a pair flights this week that sent about 50 people from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. .
With support from other Republicans, DeSantis called the controversial flights a protest against the Biden administration’s handling of the Mexican border and to protect Floridians from people smuggling drugs into the United States. Florida lawmakers this year invested money in the state budget for DeSantis to transport undocumented immigrants.
“There will also be buses, and there will probably be more flights,” DeSantis said Friday afternoon during an appearance at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach. “But I’ll tell you this, the legislature gave me $12 million. We will spend every penny to ensure that we protect the people of the State of Florida. »
Wednesday’s flights were mostly of Venezuelan migrants and included about a dozen children. Two planes flew from San Antonio, Texas to the Florida Panhandle community of Crestview before heading north.
DeSantis’ decision to initiate the flights has made international headlines and drawn heavy criticism from Democrats and immigrant advocates. President Joe Biden has accused Republicans of “doing politics with human beings”.
“What they’re doing is just plain wrong,” the president said at a Congressional Hispanic Caucus event Thursday night. “It’s not American. It’s reckless.”
Massachusetts Senate President Karen Spilka described the thefts as “amounting to a form of human trafficking for pure political games,” according to the State House News Service.
DeSantis’ office has not released full details of the thefts, and questions persist about issues such as the use of Florida money to move migrants who were in Texas.
DeSantis called “false” reports that the migrants – who were moved Friday from Martha’s Vineyard to a military base on Cape Cod – were lured onto the flights to Texas with promises of housing and jobs.
“People who are under contract, not only did they give them a release form to sign, they actually gave them a package. And in that package was a map of Martha’s Vineyard,” DeSantis said. “So it was obvious that’s where they were going.”
According to FlightAware tracking, two Ultimate Air shuttles flew Wednesday morning from San Antonio to Crestview. One of the planes then stopped in Charlotte, NC, and the other stopped in Spartanburg, SC. They then went to Martha’s Vineyard.
State records show that the Florida Department of Transportation made a September 8 payment of $615,000 to Oregon-based Vertol Systems Company Inc., which has an operation in Destin, for “relocating d ‘unauthorized strangers’.
The governor’s office did not respond to questions asking if or how the company was involved in Wednesday’s flights.
The money for Vertol came from the $12 million the legislature directed to the state transportation agency, at DeSantis’s request, for “the transportation of unauthorized aliens from this state.”
Massachusetts officials and residents rushed to provide housing for the migrants after they disembarked on Wednesday.
Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins said she was exploring how DeSantis sent the asylum seekers from Texas without notifying Massachusetts state and local authorities.
“We are reviewing this matter and will speak with members of the Justice Department,” Rollins told reporters on Thursday, noting that Republican governors in Texas and Arizona have bused migrants to other locations in the states. -United.
“We have several other sister communities, whether it’s DC, New York, California, where we’ve seen things like this, and we’re hoping to get some input from the Justice Department on what our next steps might be, the optionally. at all,” she said.
Massachusetts immigration attorney Rachel Self told reporters Thursday that the US Department of Homeland Security helped process paperwork for migrants before they boarded flights to Massachusetts.
They themselves have argued that officers forged addresses on migrants’ documents and listed homeless shelters around the country as their residences, including a migrant who was sent to Martha’s Vineyard with an address listed as a homeless shelter in Tacoma, Washington. Migrants also received incorrect information. information about which federal agency to report to after arriving in Massachusetts, which could result in their deportation from the country, according to Self.
“It is clear that this was an intentional attempt to have these migrants deported in absentia when they failed to change their address with an appropriate agency. This was a deliberate derailment designed to prevent people from complying with federal immigration policies,” Self told reporters Thursday. “It’s sickeningly cruel.”
DeSantis called the process used in the thefts “voluntary.”
“I think if states could send, I would send back to Mexico or the country of origin. But here we do it voluntarily,” DeSantis said. “They signed a waiver. And then they get a package.
“They are given a good turn. We give them everything. And it’s just, you know, it’s a human thing to do,” DeSantis continued. “What’s not human is what Biden does. He makes a false promise that the borders will open, tricking people into coming here for political purposes.
Democrats have called it immoral to move refugees to other states, while castigating the relocation this week of Venezuelans who escaped Maduro’s socialist regime.
On Friday, Democratic Florida gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist filed for public record to “hold DeSantis to account” for his actions.
“These people were running from, you know, socialist regimes, and then they’re treated like they’re still in a socialist regime by Governor DeSantis,” Crist said at a campaign rally outside the Old Capitol in Tallahassee. ” It’s shocking. It’s incredible. And he rebels against it. Yet he does this himself. He’s an autocrat. He wants to be dictator. He is cruel. He is nasty. And he has to go.
Crist’s request included “all documents” related to the state’s migrant transfer program, internal communications in DeSantis’ office regarding the program, and communications related to the program between DeSantis’ office and the Massachusetts governor’s office. , Charlie Baker.
–Dara Kam and Jim Turner, News Service of Florida
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