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Gov. DeSantis' communications director confirmed the migrant relocation program will continue with two flights heading to Illinois and Delaware.
Gov. DeSantis' communications director confirmed the migrant relocation program will continue with two flights heading to Illinois and Delaware. Photo: Jeff Swensen/Getty Images.

DeSantis to fly migrants to Delaware and Illinois following release of new documents

Two different flights were scheduled for Oct. 3, but postponed due to Hurricane Ian.

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As Florida struggles to bounce back from the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, Republican state Governor Ron DeSantis is reviving his migrant transportation scheme, his communications director, Taryn Fenske, announced on Saturday, Oct. 15. This came a day after state documents were released revealing that Florida paid $1 million for two flights to Delaware and Illinois, as first reported by the Associated Press. 

According to new documents released on Friday, Oct. 14, it revealed that two new flights carrying 100 migrants will make their way to the Democratic hubs of Delaware and Illinois. Also in the findings, the two flights were originally scheduled for Oct. 3, but were postponed as state officials were focused on Hurricane Ian. 

According to memos released by the state transportation department, the charter flight company hired by DeSantis extended the date of the flights to Dec. 1, as a result of the postponement. 

Fenske was asked about why the flights were postponed in the first place, to which she said the state was caught up with the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, but now the relocation program is a part of the state’s fiscal budget, titled the “Freedom First Budget.” It’s a $12 million program that will still continue, despite legal challenges and backlash from national Democrats, and advocacy groups. 

The funds for the $12 million relocation program comes from interest earned from federal funds given to the state under the American Rescue Plan, which was legislation passed during the pandemic to help states bounce back economically. 

“While Florida has had all hands on deck responding to our catastrophic hurricane, the immigration relocation program remains active,“ Fenske said 

These upcoming flights to Delaware and Illinois follow the original Sept. 14 flights that carried over 50 Venezuelan migrants from San Antonio, Texas to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, where residents and officials were caught by surprise. 

The flights originated in Texas but according to DeSantis, the flight made a stop in Florida, which was intended.

Following the flight to Martha’s Vineyard, the New York Times broke news that DeSantis was assisted by a former Army Veteran who was a combat medic and a counterintelligence agent. The Times revealed her name to be Perla Huerta, and she helped recruit migrants onto the flight to Massachusetts. No one has been able to locate her since the news first broke. 

DeSantis is also on the campaign trail at the moment seeking reelection as governor ahead of the November midterms. During an event in Coral Springs, Florida on Sunday, Oct. 16, the Florida governor went at the Biden administration over its immigration policies in which he also referenced the Martha's Vineyard flight. 

"When we had millions of people coming across the border, they ignored the problem... they only cared when [migrants] started to show up in D.C., New York City, and Martha's Vineyard. That's the only time they care," DeSantis said. 

At the same event, DeSantis also said he was in agreement with former President Donald Trump's border policies in which they required migrants to wait in Mexico for their immigration appointments in the U.S. It’s a policy that was removed this year. 

"President Trump was right to just have them wait at the border, most of the claims get denied, and then they've got to go back to the other countries," DeSantis said, "but to just have people coming in, you're never going to hear from them again." 

In addition to all this, the documents released by the state on Friday also reveal that DeSantis’ top staffers were also directly involved with the flight from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard. 

According to the records released by the governor’s administration, two weeks out from the Sept. 14 flight, DeSantis’ chief of staff, James Uthmeier, sent text messages and made phone calls to former Trump-appointed U.S. Attorney Larry Keefe, who is currently DeSantis’ public safety czar. 

The documents also include over 150 pages of evidence that include text messages, photos of migrants going onto the plane, in addition to Department of Homeland Security waivers signed by migrants before going on the plane. 

DeSantis’ relocation program is in the same vein as Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s “Operation Lone Star,” which since April 2022, has bused over 13,000 migrants from Texas to Democratic cities including D.C., Chicago, and New York City, in retaliation over the Biden Administration’s border policies.

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