TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration can continue to use taxpayer dollars to relocate migrants from any state in the country under a bill passed Friday in the Florida House.
SB 6B was one of several controversial bills being discussed during the special session in Tallahassee. The measure formally creates the Unauthorized Alien Transport Program, enabling Florida to move migrants from anywhere in the U.S.
DeSantis drew controversy last year when he used taxpayer money to organize flights for 49 migrants, most Venezuelan refugees, from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.
The move raised legal questions as to whether the DeSantis administration had violated state law since none of the migrants had been in Florida.
Attorneys for the migrants filed a class-action lawsuit alleging they were misled to into agreeing to board the flights and accused DeSantis of executing “a premeditated, fraudulent, and illegal scheme … for the sole purpose of advancing their own personal, financial and political interests.”
Last June, DeSantis signed a budget that set aside $12 million “to facilitate the transport of unauthorized aliens out of Florida.”
He ordered lawmakers to meet in a special session this week to consider a bill that will expand the program and allow the state to move migrants from anywhere in the U.S.
“The Federal Government has failed to secure the nation’s borders” and has “proven itself unwilling to address this crisis,” the bill states. “Without such action” by Florida lawmakers, “detrimental effects” could occur, like “increased crime, diminished economic opportunities and wages for American workers, and burdens on the education and health care systems.”
The Republican-controlled House passed the measure on a 77-34 vote Friday, sending it to the governor’s desk.
This story is developing and will be updated.