A high-profile stunt flying migrants from Texas to Massachusetts may have broken Florida law. But legislation under consideration in a Special Session this week could change the statute before addressing any violation.
The Florida Legislature last year approved an immigration crackdown law granting the Governor a greater ability to respond to migrants illegally entering the U.S. and arriving in Florida. That included the budget authority to transport migrants to other states, which was used to justify flying tow planes of immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard in September.
The problem is the bill only allowed for a program enabling “the transport of unauthorized aliens from this state,” but the flights DeSantis commissioned flew to Texas to round up migrants there and transport them to New England.
Rep. John Snyder, a Stuart Republican, carried the bill passed by the Legislature last year.
He’s now sponsoring the bill under consideration in Special Session to change the law, which was filed on Friday. Sen. Blaise Ingoglia, a Spring Hill Republican, filed a companion bill in the Senate.
The words “this state” no longer will appear in the relevant statute under the newly filed legislation. It will instead allow for the “transport of inspected unauthorized aliens within the United States.”
Snyder last year notably said arguments the program might target refugees legally seeking asylum were disingenuous. But critics have argued the use of the term “unauthorized aliens” kept the program intentionally vague regarding whether it could target migrants legally within the United States.
The drafting of the bill reflects a poor understanding of immigration which causes broad, harmful consequences, and possibly even achieves results not intended by the drafters,” said Mark Prada, an immigration lawyer and executive in the American Immigration Lawyers Association, when the law was initially passed.
Notably, the legislation also retroactively considers costs associated with the prior law as “approved.” For the 2022-’23 fiscal year, the new legislation sets aside $10 million in non-recurring funding from general revenue and sends it to the Division of Emergency Management to fund the program.
Notably, the DeSantis administration paid Vertol upward of $1.5 million for the flights last year after lengthy communication between the company and DeSantis public safety czar Larry Keefe using an alias, the Miami Herald reported.
That was revealed in communications made public after a judge ordered records be turned over to the Florida Center for Government Accountability.