TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the special legislative session’s migrant relocation program bill into law.
Making the announcement that the bill was now part of the state statutes on Twitter, DeSantis said he signed the legislation to send “illegal aliens to sanctuary jurisdictions” to protect Floridians from the immigration policies of President Joe Biden.
The bill passed in the February special legislative session, on a largely partisan divide, was written to repeal and replace the less definitive program created in 2022’s fiscal year budget.
The program, a $12 million appropriation to move migrants without proper authorization,to other parts of the U.S. was used just once to fly nearly 50 individuals to Martha’s Vineyard, Mass. in September.
The language of the relevant section from 2022 has been a source of multiple questions, as the only set of flights used to transport migrants only appeared in Florida briefly in a stopover, instead transporting nearly 50 migrants from San Antonio, Texas, despite requiring migrants to be in Florida before being transported.
As a result, the program has been a subject of controversy and legal challenges since its first use. Senate Bill 5B, Transportation of Inspected Unauthorized Aliens, appropriates $10 million to create a new program within the Florida Department of Emergency Management, specifically to deal with migrants coming to Florida.
The new version of the program, now part of Florida law, will instead allow state officials to simply move migrants to other parts of the country. Per DeSantis’ tweet, it’ll focus on sanctuary jurisdictions.
SB 6B says that along with repeal of the $12 million program, which was still named as a priority in the 2023 budget plan by DeSantis, the $1.565 million paid to Vertol Systems, Inc. would be deemed “approved.”
Now law, the special session’s Unauthorized Alien Transport Program for FDEM is intended to “mitigate the effects” of what Florida officials have continued to call a crisis, which they say was created by federal officials having “failed to secure the nation’s borders and has allowed a surge of inspected unauthorized aliens” to enter the U.S.
The bill’s authors wrote into its text that “The [Florida] Legislature finds that the Federal Government has proven itself unwilling to address this crisis.”
State officials have also empaneled a grand jury in June to investigate immigration issues in Florida as part of a response strategy. Florida lawmakers wrote in the special session bill that residents must be “protected” from the border crisis’ impacts, naming “increased crime, diminished economic opportunities and wages for American works, and burdens on the education and health care systems” among negative repercussions for the ongoing issues at the U.S. Southern Border.
Just under two hours after signing the relocation bill into law, DeSantis spoke in West Palm Beach about a plan for a so-called Digital Bill of Rights for Floridians. Several multiple lawsuits, including by state lawmakers, since the first flights in September, and are still underway.