DeSantis signs controversial migrant transportation bill
With little fanfare, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday signed a controversial bill expected to result in Florida transporting migrants to “sanctuary” areas of the country, similar to the September flights of about 50 migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.
The bill (SB 6-B), which passed last week during a special legislative session, creates the “Unauthorized Alien Transport Program” within the state Division of Emergency Management and provides $10 million to transport migrants from Florida and other states to sanctuary areas.
Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie said Wednesday his agency will first spend time reviewing past actions of the Florida Department of Transportation, which helped direct the September flights.
“Before we go and move forward, we have to know what's happened, and what's been done,” Guthrie said. “So, we’ll look at best practices, things that were challenges, and fix those going forward. So, my team will work hard on that over the next couple of days and into the next week, and they will come up with an implementation plan and execute on that.”
Lawmakers last year included $12 million in the budget for the Department of Transportation to carry out a “program to facilitate the transport of unauthorized aliens from this state.”
Legislative staff analyses reported $1.565 million had been spent as of Jan. 31. Vertol Systems Company, Inc. was paid $615,000 for the Texas to Martha’s Vineyard flights, with a stop in the Northwest Florida community of Crestview.
DeSantis signed the bill Wednesday in his office with Sen. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill, and Rep. John Snyder, R-Stuart, the measure’s sponsors. “Florida is using all tools available to protect our citizens from Biden's open border policies,” DeSantis said in a Twitter post.
Democrats called the measure a “political ploy” to help DeSantis, a potential 2024 Republican presidential candidate who frequently criticizes President Joe Biden’s administration on immigration issues.