Until Sunday, Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ requested $8 million to remove immigrants from Florida had been absent from the budget. But Senate negotiators allocated that and more in their latest budget offer, a possible win for the Republican Governor.
As part of his proposal to crackdown on illegal immigration, DeSantis in December outlined the $8 million fund to ship immigrants who are in the country illegally to other states, including President Joe Biden’s home state of Delaware. After being silent on the immigration all Session, the Senate’s latest budget offer included $12 million for the Department of Transportation to remove “unauthorized aliens” from Florida “consistent with federal law.”
Senate negotiators, led by Lakeland Republican Sen. Kelli Stargel, sent the offer. But comments from top House negotiator and Panama City Republican Rep. Jay Trumbull suggested the House was amenable to the Senate’s offer.
“It was something that obviously put in his recommendation and something that we felt was something that would be good to put in an offer,” Trumbull told reporters.
Questions about legal challenges to the move would be answered later, he added. He also said the 50% increase to DeSantis’ request is because of interest.
The budget item would allow the state to partner with private transportation companies and applicable federal agencies.
“Unauthorized alien” would mean people not cleared to be in the United States under the federal Immigration and Nationality Act.
Republican lawmakers argue federal law would cover unaccompanied minors, such as deferred action for childhood arrivals recipients and those with a temporary protected status. However, lawyers with the Florida Immigrant Coalition say that is not the case.
Hollywood Democratic Rep. Marie Woodson, who was born in Haiti, told Florida Politics she was surprised to see the Senate agree to DeSantis’ request.
“I think it’s wrong, it’s inhumane and that’s not something that the United States stands for, because the country takes on immigrants,” Woodson said.
DeSantis announced the proposal in December after criticizing President Biden’s immigration policies, including bringing flights to Jacksonville to relocate people he claims were in the country illegally.
“If you sent (them) to Delaware or Martha’s Vineyard, that border would be secured the next day,” DeSantis said in December.
Also as part of DeSantis’ focus on illegal immigration, the Senate on Friday passed a bill to crack down on immigration. The measure (SB 1808), carried by Fernandina Beach Republican Sen. Aaron Bean, would prevent transportation companies from doing business with Florida if the companies participate in programs transporting to the state people who are in the country illegally.
Several of DeSantis’ budget priorities had not made it into the House or Senate offers. DeSantis’ request to relieve $1 billion-worth of gas taxes on drivers still is not in the budget. However, the Senate’s offer Sunday also included $10 million to restart the Florida State Guard.
Unlike the fiscal year budget, which kicks in July 1, the $12 million fund would become available immediately with DeSantis’ signature.