ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (HPD) — Florida authorities began planning in July to transport migrants to other states and told potential contractors their job would be to voluntarily relocate them, according to state documents.
Documents provided Friday night to The Associated Press and other news organizations provide new details about the program that included the Sept. 14 airlift of 48 Venezuelan migrants from San Antonio, Texas, to Martha’s Vineyard, a island off the coast of Massachusetts.
Because of that flight, a sheriff in Texas has launched an investigation and two lawsuits have been filed amid criticism that the show was a political ploy by Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to appeal to his conservative base.
DeSantis, who is seeking re-election this year, is frequently mentioned as a possible presidential candidate in 2024. His office had not responded to an email Saturday asking him to comment on the documents.
According to those briefs, the program as outlined in July was intended to “provide voluntary relocation assistance to Unpermitted Aliens who are in Florida and have agreed to be settled” in other parts of the country. The document did not mention the migrants found in Texas.
A Florida company that entered the bid but did not win, Gun Girls Procurement Solutions Inc., set a price of $26,000 to transport a minimum of five people and security personnel to Massachusetts.
Another contestant that gave its prices was a New York jet charter company called Wheels Up, according to the documents.
In the end, state authorities chose Vertol Systems Co., based in Destin, Florida, which has been paid $1.56 million to date for the flight to Martha’s Vineyard and possibly a second trip that did not take place. to Delaware, the home state of President Joe Biden. No other flights have been announced.
In Massachusetts, authorities said Friday that all Venezuelan migrants who have applied for asylum in the United States have left temporary shelter at a military base on Cape Cod.
In an emailed statement, Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration “appreciated the collaborative efforts among various state agencies and various nonprofit providers to ensure that each individual received the necessary humanitarian resources and access to new shelter options.” .
Some migrants have sued DeSantis and other Florida officials in federal court in Boston, saying they were victims of a “fraudulent and discriminatory scheme” to settle them elsewhere.
Florida Democratic Sen. Jason Pizzo also filed a lawsuit in state court in Tallahassee alleging the flight to Massachusetts violated state law in part because the migrants were not in Florida at the time.
The legislature authorized $12 million for the relocation program, specifically directed as mentioned therein to migrants who are within the borders of Florida.
Associated Press writer Jennifer McDermott in Providence, Rhode Island contributed to this report.