Records from Florida raise new questions about DeSantis’ migratory flights

In soliciting bids to transport immigrants across the country, the administration of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) was unequivocal: The winning contractor would have to deport new unauthorized arrivals found in the state.

Parameters drawn up by the Florida Department of Transportation and released in public records released by the state late Friday raise new questions about whether the plan violated state regulations when DeSantis officials chartered two planes to fly 48 migrants from San Antonio. Florida’s coast – up to Massachusetts last month.

The He was widely critical of political manipulation Florida lawmakers appeared to be operating outside the scope of a $12 million program they approved in their budget in June to “transport unauthorized aliens out of this state.”

Verdol Systems, an Oregon-based charter airline, has flown Venezuelans, some of whom they say were lured by promises of jobs and housing, to Martha’s Vineyard in coastal Massachusetts, known for its political liberalism. Lean society.

The flights began in San Antonio on Sept. 14 and first landed in Crestview, Fla., a Panhandle city about 36 miles north of Verdol’s Florida headquarters in Destin. After a short stop, they went to Martha’s Vineyard for the day.

Florida officials have not provided an official explanation for the suspension in Crestview, raising speculation about whether the program was intended to have a credible connection with the state, as laid out by the program’s rules.

In information released Friday, Verdol did not have the full contract offered by DeSantis management. But records show the state paid $615,000 for the Texas flights on Sept. 8 and another $950,000 on Sept. 19, when it was canceled for another flight carrying immigrants to President Biden’s home state of Delaware.

DeSantis said the flights were designed to send a message to Democrats who say they have opposed efforts to resolve the country’s border crisis. “Most of them want to come to Florida,” he said during a news conference in Dayton Beach, Fla., two days after the Texas flight. “Our point is you have to deal with it at the source.”

Scrutiny mounts over DeSantis’ use of government funds for migrant flights

Rebecca Davis, general counsel for the Florida Department of Transportation, issued a request for quotes from interested transportation companies in July.

According to a request for citations in the newly released records, the Department of Transportation sought an agency to “implement and administer a program for the relocation of aliens who are not lawfully present in the United States outside the State of Florida.” The winner will transport “unauthorized aliens found in Florida” by ground or air to other locations in the United States and the District of Columbia.

The contractor must work with multiple Florida agencies, including the Florida Department of Corrections, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Nowhere in the solicitations for bids did it mention recruiting immigrants from Texas or San Antonio. Other cities have been mentioned as possible destinations.

Verdol’s chief executive, James Montgomery, gave Davis quotes in an email for potential charter flights between four and four on a King Air 350 turboprop from Crestview to Boston (at a cost of $35,000) and Crestview to Los Angeles (at a cost of $60,000). Eight indicates that the state is interested in these potential destinations for migrant flights. Davis’ email to Montgomery had the subject line “Florida Charter Flights.”

The migrant flights are the subject of a criminal investigation in Texas and a civil lawsuit from several asylum seekers who say the DeSantis administration defrauded them.

State Sen. Jason Pizzo, a Democrat from South Florida, filed a private citizen lawsuit seeking injunctive relief, alleging the program violates state law because immigrants are displaced from Florida.

“Oops, five people who reviewed it missed it — or they should say the seller was rude by flying in immigrants from Texas,” Bizzo said in an interview. “A plain reading of the law made it clear what had to happen.”

When reached for comment Saturday, the governor’s communications director, Darrin Fenske, did not respond to questions about whether the DeSantis administration may have violated state guidelines on Texas flights. “We’re just focused on Hurricane Ian relief and recovery. I’m with Floridians right now,” Fenske said.

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