Senate committee advances bill authorizing $10M more for migrant flights
Image via AP.

Martha's Vineyard AP
The bill is advancing through Special Session.

The Senate Fiscal Policy committee is advancing legislation to replace the law that authorized migrant flights to Martha’s Vineyard. The bill (SB 6B) was passed at the committee level on a party-line vote, with Senate Republicans in support.

Sen. Blaise Ingoglia, a Spring Hill Republican, said the state needs to set $10 million aside to fund more transportation of those crossing the border. He said the state should be able to relocate “unauthorized aliens” to sanctuary jurisdictions if they want to come to Florida, even if they never step foot in the state.

“What we’re talking about is illegal immigrants. I don’t think anyone here has a problem with people taking the time and effort to come here legally,” Ingoglia said.

“What’s dead wrong is having this problem fester for 40, 50 years and nobody having the political will to solve the problem. The only way we’re going to solve this problem is to solve the illegal immigration first.”

State law says the program could only transport immigrants in “this state,” and the Governor authorized flying to Texas to find people to transport.

Ingoglia said the program authorized by his legislation would only move individuals already processed by the Department of Homeland Security after entering the United States but who are still not here legally. He also said the program will only impact those who say they intend to come to Florida, but who agree, when asked, to be sent elsewhere.

“That’s common sense,” he said, suggesting contractors would risk violating federal law transporting people across state lines against their will.

But that touches on the incident last year under existing law, where two planes chartered by the state flew to Texas to pick up 49 migrants, most of those Venezuelan refugees, and flew them to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. Gov. Ron DeSantis argued that was appropriate because the jurisdiction advertised it welcomed refugees, and he said the migrants could have ended up in Florida.

Democrats said the legislation under consideration in Special Session this week acknowledges the illegality of those flights, and condones further mistreatment of refugees.

“As members of the Fiscal Policy Committee, we should not be upholding things that we know violate Florida law,” said Sen. Geraldine Thompson, a Windermere Democrat. “Now, Senator Ingoglia says he can’t speak to the previous program. But under the previous program, they did not follow Florida law.”

Ingoglia won’t comment on the flights authorized by the law he aims to repeal, citing ongoing litigation around the flights.

It’s unclear how much the state spent under the current law, but at least $1.56 million was paid for Vertol Services, a Destin-based company, for the two flights. There’s some indication the state also intended to charter more flights to President Joe Biden’s Delaware home. Neither of those trips ever took place.

Ingoglia said his bill aims for a transparent program. He disputed estimates that presume all of the money paid in the past went only to charter the planes. His bill calls for budgeting $10 million and moving the program under the Division of Emergency Management instead of the Department of Transportation.

I would say that someone should declare the federal government itself its own disaster area. The Biden administration and (Homeland Security) Secretary (AlejandroMayorkas have not only failed, but they have failed miserably,” Ingoglia argued, “and Floridians are asked to foot the bill and pay the consequences.”

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].

One comment

  • Jim Cline

    February 9, 2023 at 4:13 pm

    We don’t have $10 million to fly people up north while they wait for their asylum hearings. That is the stupidest waste of money ever. Let’s provide some medical or mental health care to the poor, as we were taught in our religious studies or by our families. The money is from federal largesse, and it won’t appear again.

Comments are closed.


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