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DeSantis says migrant flights ‘opening people’s eyes’ to secure border as another payment made

Democratic and community leaders have criticized the governor for using people as political pawns by flying them to Martha’s Vineyard.

BRADENTON, Fla. — Just days after two planes carrying migrants arrived at Martha’s Vineyard at Gov. Ron DeSantis’ direction, state records show another payment has been made to the same Oregon-based aviation company.

DeSantis speaking during a news conference Tuesday afternoon could not confirm whether the funds will be used for additional flights out of Florida, but he has said previously that there are plans in place to move more migrants to “sanctuary cities” in light of what he calls the Biden administration’s failed border policies.

Six days before the Martha’s Vineyard flights, a $615,000 payment was made to Vertol Systems Company Inc., according to the government site. Updated records show an additional $950,000 payment was made to the company on Sept. 19.

In total, more than $1.5 million has been paid.

DeSantis said that “we’re not seeing a mass movement of [migrants] into Florida.” Instead, the state is using “intelligence” to identify people who enter the U.S. and want to come to Florida and diverting them to “sanctuary cities.”

“We have to go and figure out, ‘OK, who are those people likely to be,’ and if you can do it at the source and divert to sanctuary jurisdictions, the chance they end up in Florida is much less,” the governor said. 

“…[The migrant relocation program] has made more of an impact than anyone thought it could possibly make,” continued DeSantis, hinting at more transports. “At the end of the day, what we’re doing is not the ultimate solution — I think it’s opening people’s eyes to the solution, which is ‘let’s have a secure border…'”

The funding is part of a portion of the state’s latest budget that included $12 million to establish a program within the Department of Transportation to “facilitate the transport” of undocumented people out of Florida. 

DeSantis last week defended his decision to fly migrants to Martha’s Vineyard, saying they may have been “inclined to think Florida is a good place” to go.

“…Our message to them is we are not a sanctuary state, and it’s better to be able to go to a sanctuary jurisdiction and, yes, we will help facilitate that transport for you to be able to go to greener pastures,” said DeSantis, responding to a reporter’s question.

The governor’s response comes as Florida Democrats are working to stop DeSantis’ transport of migrants to other states.

“The assertion that these people might have wanted to come to Florida is not a sufficient reason to intercept, deceive, and transport asylum seekers two thousand miles,” Florida House representatives Evan Jenne and Fentrice Driskell wrote in a letter to state Republican leaders.

“Because of that, we ask you to act to stop this inappropriate use of taxpayer dollars before it occurs again.”

Two flights landed last Wednesday afternoon at Martha’s Vineyard that both originated from San Antonio, according to flight tracking site FlightAware. Both made stops at Bob Sikes Airport in Crestview, located in the Florida Panhandle— waiting 43 minutes and 45 minutes, respectively — before making another stop in the Carolinas and reaching Massachusetts.

One of those planes, the flight tracking site shows, was scheduled to fly Tuesday from San Antonio to Crestview, Florida, before heading to Deleware and Teterboro, New Jersey. The Delaware governor’s office and community groups mobilized for the possibility of migrants landing in the state, according to Delaware Online.

The flight-tracking site showed, however, that plans were changed later Tuesday afternoon for the flight in question. Rather than stopping in Deleware, it would go to Teterboro.

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