DeSantis will continue migrant flights to Democratic states

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — 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 host two sets of planes to Delaware and Illinois.

Documents released on Friday show that the two sets of scheduled flights will carry around 100 migrants to these two states. They were scheduled to happen by October 3, but were apparently stopped 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 their flight was delayed, 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 in 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 were not 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 joined Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott in the tactic of sending migrants to Democratic strongholds without prior notice.

Earlier this year, the Florida Legislature approved a $12 million budget line item to relocate people in the country illegally from Florida. The money came from interest earned on federal funds given to Florida under the US bailout. While the migrant flights to Martha’s Vineyard originated in Texas, the charter plane carrying them stopped in Florida. DeSantis has said the migrants’ intent was to come to Florida.

The documents released Friday did not provide details on how migrants were recruited in San Antonio for the Martha Vineyard flights or who was hired to carry out 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.

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