Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday said he intends to use “every penny” of the $12 million his state budgeted to relocate migrants and set the expectation for buses and “likely more” flights full of migrants paid for by the state.
“These are just the beginning efforts,” the Republican governor said. “We’ve got an infrastructure in place now. There’s going to be a lot more that’s happening.”
Speaking at a news conference in Daytona Beach, DeSantis defended using taxpayer dollars to send 50 migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard because he said many people who cross the border end up in Florida. He said people working for Florida are in Texas and they “profile” individuals who are likely headed to Florida.
Florida, he added, has hired its own contractor to coordinate the state’s relocation efforts in Texas, though DeSantis did not close the door on working with Texas GOP Gov. Greg Abbott to arrange future transportation.
“We may collaborate,” DeSantis said.
If he could, DeSantis said, “I would send [them] back to Mexico or back to the home country.” Most, if not all, of the migrants on the two flights said they were from Venezuela.
DeSantis also disputed that the migrants did not know where they were going in Massachusetts because he claimed they had signed a waiver and were provided with a packet that included a map of Martha’s Vineyard.
“It’s obvious that’s where they were going,” he said, adding, “It’s all voluntary.”
The state budget DeSantis signed this year allocated $12 million to move “unauthorized aliens” but specified the intent was to transport people “from this state.” Asked about that provision, DeSantis dismissed it as semantic because so many migrants end up in Florida, but they are not moving there in groups large enough to intercept.
“So we’ve been interdicted people on a onesie, twosie basis,” DeSantis said. “And we said, OK, so we’ve had people in Texas for months, trying to figure out how are these people getting into Florida? What’s the movement? And the reality is 40% of them say they want to go to Florida. And so that’s a lot. I mean, we talk about all those people, but the problem is that they’re coming in through with like three people in a car and they go through, it’s hard for us to know, because they’re just coming into the state like any other car, so there’s not a big movement.”
“So they’ve been in Texas, identifying people that are trying to come to Florida and then offering them free transportation to sanctuary jurisdictions. And so they went from Texas to Florida, to Martha’s Vineyard in the flight.”
Responding to criticism on Thursday from President Joe Biden, DeSantis said, “We’re continuing to … use every tool at our disposal to insulate the state of Florida from the negative ramifications of his reckless border policies.”
“He didn’t scramble to get his Cabinet together when we had millions of people illegally pouring across the southern border,” DeSantis said.