DeSantis Granted More Power to Relocate Illegal Immigrants to Blue States

Tom Ozimek
By Tom Ozimek
February 11, 2023Politics
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DeSantis Granted More Power to Relocate Illegal Immigrants to Blue States
Illegal immigrants from Cuba line up to board a bus to be driven to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection station as they are processed in Marathon, Fla., on Jan. 5, 2023. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Florida lawmakers have approved an expansion of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ relocation program for illegal immigrants, handing him the authority to transport such individuals from anywhere to anywhere in the country, including to blue states.

In a special session, Florida’s House of Representatives voted along party lines on Feb. 10 to expand DeSantis’ effort to relocate unauthorized illegal immigrants located in any state to any jurisdiction in the United States.

The bill establishes the Unauthorized Alien Transport Program within the Division of Emergency Management, expanding on a program DeSantis enacted last year that enabled officials to fly illegal immigrants to blue states that have sanctuary policies in place.

Besides explicitly granting DeSantis the transport powers, the bill also allocates $10 million for the program, while also stating that money spent in the past on alien relocation efforts are “deemed approved,” which bolsters the governor’s position in the face of possible legal challenges.

Last year, DeSantis used taxpayer funds to fly dozens of unauthorized illegal immigrants from Texas to the wealthy enclave of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, which he said was a response to the Biden administration’s failed policies on immigration.

NTD Photo
Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the Republican Jewish Coalition Annual Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas on Nov. 19, 2022. (Wade Vandervort/AFP via Getty Images)

Democrats decried the move as a political stunt, with Florida state Sen. Jason Pizzo suing DeSantis as a private citizen, claiming the governor misused taxpayer money. Since the newly-passed bill addresses the issue of past allocation of taxpayer funds to prior relocation efforts, it could potentially nullify the lawsuit.

The bill, which now heads to DeSantis’ desk for a signature, was opposed by state Democrats.

“This bill is indefensible,” Florida state Rep. Christopher Benjamin, a Democrat, said on the House floor. “Stop playing games with people’s lives.”

Republican lawmakers contended that the bill will help people who voluntarily want to travel to so-called sanctuary cities get there.

“They’re going to get more benefits in a sanctuary state or city than they would here, and we’re simply providing them with a free ticket,” Florida state Rep. Juan Fernandez-Barquin, a Republican, said.

Republicans have said they would only relocate illegal immigrants who agree to relocate, the word “voluntary” doesn’t appear in the legislation, though Democrats tried unsuccessfully to change the bill so that it contains such language.

In a statement to media outlets, DeSantis spokesperson Jeremy Redfern said that the governor would review the bill and “decide on the merits” before applying his signature.

Other details of the bill include authorizing DeSantis’ administration to further expand the relocation program by granting contracts to companies that will implement its provisions.

When DeSantis relocated illegal immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard several months ago, his administration awarded a contract to Vertol Systems to charter flights.

Illegal immigrants arrive in Martha
Illegal immigrants from Venezuela stand outside St. Andrew’s Church in Edgartown, Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., on Sept. 14, 2022. (Ray Ewing/Vineyard Gazette/Handout via Reuters)

‘Disaster Area’

DeSantis and other state Republicans have said that the relocation program deserves a funding boost because of the sharp increase in the number of people crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally.

“We can just sit here and do nothing about it, or we can actually stand up and say ‘whatever tools we have at our disposal, we are going to use,'” DeSantis said last week.

Several weeks ago, hundreds of Cuban and Haitian migrants arrived in the Florida Keys, with Republican leaders in the state legislature saying that part of the reason to expand the relocation program was “to respond to the influx.”

State Sen. Blaise Ingoglia, who sponsored the bill, said during a committee hearing on the measure that, “the state of Florida is currently in a state of emergency because of the ineptness and the incompetence of the federal government when it comes to immigration policy.”

“In fact, I would say that someone should declare the federal government itself its own disaster area,” Ingoglia added.

The bill also takes explicit aim at President Joe Biden’s border policies.

“The Federal Government has failed to secure the nation’s borders” and has “proven itself unwilling to address this crisis,” the bill reads.

Further, “without such action” by Florida lawmakers, there’s the potential for “detrimental effects”  like “increased crime, diminished economic opportunities and wages for American workers, and burdens on the education and health care systems.”

DeSantis echoed this sentiment at a press conference last week, saying, “People are sick of having an open border with no rule of law in this country.”

Besides DeSantis, other Republican governors have taken measures in recent month that call attention to what they say are Biden’s failed immigration policies, including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and former Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, both of whom also sought to bolster border security with steps like surging National Guard service members to high-traffic areas and erecting makeshift walls made from shipping containers.

From The Epoch Times

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