TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (HPD) — Florida paid nearly $1 million to organize two series of flights to move about 100 migrants who entered the country illegally to Delaware and Illinois, according to documents released Friday by the Florida Department of Transportation.
The flights would be the continuation of those that took place on September 14 from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard and that took 49 migrants, mostly Venezuelans, to that Massachusetts island, where former President Barack Obama has a mansion. Local authorities received no prior notice of the migrants’ arrival.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has claimed responsibility for the flights as part of a campaign to draw attention to what he has called the failed immigration policies of the Joe Biden administration. He thus added to the tactic of the governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, to send migrants to regions with a Democratic majority without prior notice.
The two additional groups of flights were originally scheduled for sometime before October 3, but have apparently been stopped or postponed. The Florida-contracted company later extended the deadline for the trips to Dec. 1, according to memos released by the state Department of Transportation.
Vertol Systems, of Destin, Florida, was contracted to organize the flights and sent an employee to Tallahassee, the state capital, to pick up a paper copy of a $950,000 check after the state failed to receive documentation to make a direct deposit into the company’s account, according to the documents.
Vertol’s owner, James Montgomerie, did not respond to a phone call or email requesting comment on the flight plans. DeSantis’ office also did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment from him.
This year the Legislature approved a $12 million budget line item to relocate people in the country illegally from Florida to another location. The money came from interest earned on federal funds awarded to Florida under the American Rescue Plan.
While the migrant flights originated in Texas, the charter plane carrying them made a stopover in Florida. DeSantis has said the migrants’ intention was to get to Florida.
The documents released Friday do not give details about how the migrants in San Antonio were recruited for the flights to Martha’s Vineyard or who was hired to carry out that part of the operation.
On the other hand, the same Friday a Texas police chief certified that the 49 migrants who flew to Martha’s Vineyard last month are victims of crimes, which allows them to apply for special visas to stay in the United States. The commissioner said that an investigation has been opened.
The flight to Martha’s Vineyard has also led to lawsuits accusing Florida of lying to migrants to get them to take the flights.