Florida records raise new questions about DeSantis immigration flights

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is unequivocal in calling for bids to round up migrants for transportation across the country: Winning contractor needs to fly out unauthorized newcomers found in the state .

Those parameters, developed by the Florida Department of Transportation and disclosed in public records released by the state late Friday, have raised new questions about whether the program was used when DeSantis officials chartered two planes to transport 48 immigrants from San Antonio. Violating state protocols — far from the coast of Florida — came to Massachusetts last month.

The widely criticized political tactic appears to go beyond the $12 million plan that Florida lawmakers authorized in the June budget to “facilitate the transportation of unauthorized aliens from the state.”

Oregon-based charter airline Vertol Systems lured the group of Venezuelans, some of whom said they were promised jobs and housing, to Martha’s Vineyard, off the coast of Massachusetts, said to be For Political Liberals – The Lean Community.

September’s Flight 14 began in San Antonio and first landed in Crestview, Florida, a narrow city 36 miles north of Vertol’s Florida headquarters in Destin. After a short stop, they headed to Martha’s Vineyard later in the day.

Florida officials have yet to provide an official explanation for the stop in Crestview, prompting speculation about whether the mission was designed to make the mission appear reasonably connected to the state, as the program’s rules suggest. as specified.

The information released Friday did not include the full contract awarded to Vertol by the DeSantis government. But records show the state paid the company $615,000 on Sept. 17 for the Texas flight. Another $950,000 for August and September. On the 19th, it was reported that another flight carrying immigrants to Delaware, the home state of President Biden, was cancelled.

DeSantis has said the flights were designed to send a message to Democrats, who he claims have resisted efforts to resolve the crisis at the country’s border. “Most of them were going to come to Florida,” he said at a news conference in Dayton Beach, Florida, two days after the Texas flight. “Our view is that you have to deal with it at the source.”

DeSantis’ scrutiny of state funding for immigration flights grows

The relocation program was launched in July, when Rebekah Davis, general counsel for the Florida Department of Transportation, sent a request for quotations to interested transportation companies.

The Department of Transportation sought a company to “implement and administer a program to relocate foreign nationals illegally present in the United States out of Florida,” according to a request for quotation in the newly released records. The winner will transport by ground or air “unauthorized aliens found in Florida and agreed to relocate” to the rest of the United States and the District of Columbia.

The program also requires contractors to work with numerous Florida agencies, including the Florida Department of Corrections, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

The bid request made no mention of recruiting immigrants from Texas or San Antonio. Other cities are mentioned as possible destinations.

Vertol’s CEO, James Montgomerie, offered Davis in an email a possible flight from Crestview to Boston in a King Air 350 turboprop (costing $35,000) and gram A charter flight from Restview to Los Angeles (costs $60,000) costs between four and five minutes. Eight, indicating the state is interested in these potential immigrant flight destinations. The subject line of Davis’ email to Montgomery was “Florida Charter.”

The immigration flight is the subject of a criminal investigation in Texas, as well as a civil lawsuit filed by several asylum seekers who say the DeSantis government defrauded them.

State Senator Jason Pizzo, a Democrat from South Florida, sued as a private citizen seeking injunctive relief, claiming the program violated state law in part because immigrants didn’t relocate from Florida.

“Oops, the five people reviewing this missed out — otherwise they’d have to claim the supplier was a rogue,” Pizzo said in an interview, flying in from Texas. “It’s pretty clear what should happen by simply reading the law.”

When asked for comment Saturday, Taryn Fenske, the governor’s communications director, did not answer a question about whether the DeSantis administration may have violated state guidelines for Texas flights. “We are focused on Hurricane Ian rescue and recovery. My thoughts are with the Floridians right now,” Finsk said.

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