TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration plans to continue flying migrants who entered the country illegally to Democratic strongholds, his spokeswoman said Saturday, a day after newly released records showed the state paid nearly $1 million to arrange two sets of flights to Delaware and Illinois.
Documents released Friday show that the two sets of planned flights will transport about 100 migrants to those two states. They were scheduled to happen before Oct. 3 but apparently were halted or postponed. The contractor hired by Florida later extended the window for the trips until Dec. 1, according to memos released by the state Department of Transportation.
When asked why they flights were postponed, DeSantis’ communications director, Taryn Fenske, noted that Florida has been busy dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Ian.
“While Florida has had all hands on deck responding to our catastrophic hurricane, the immigration relocation program remains active,” Fenske said in an email Saturday.
The flights would be a follow-up to the Sept. 14 flights from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, that carried 49 mostly Venezuelan migrants to the island where former President Barack Obama owns a home. Local officials weren’t told in advance that the migrants were coming.
DeSantis claimed responsibility for the flights as part of a campaign to focus attention on what he has called the Biden administration’s failed border policies. He was joining Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in the tactic of sending migrants to Democratic strongholds without advance warning.
Earlier this year, the Florida Legislature approved a $12 million budget item to relocate people in the country illegally from Florida to another location. The money came from interest earned from federal funds given to Florida under the American Rescue Plan. While the migrant flights to Martha’s Vineyard originated in Texas, the charter plane carrying them made a stop in Florida. DeSantis has said that the migrants’ intention was to come to Florida.
The documents released Friday gave no details of how migrants were recruited in San Antonio for the Martha Vineyard flights or who was hired to conduct that part of the operation.
The Martha’s Vineyard flight has also spawned lawsuits accusing Florida of lying to the migrants to get them to agree to the flights.