Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday signed a bill expanding a controversial state program to transport migrants.
“Florida is using all tools available to protect our citizens from Biden’s open border policies,” DeSantis wrote on Twitter. “I am glad to have signed legislation to continue the program of transporting illegal aliens to sanctuary jurisdictions. I thank the legislature for maintaining this valuable tool.”
The measure allows the DeSantis administration to pick up where the governor left off last year when he sent two planes of migrants from San Antonio, Texas, to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. The action sparked multiple lawsuits and questions as to whether the DeSantis administration had violated state law by rounding up migrants in Texas. The budget law that created the $12 million program specified that the money was set aside to relocate “unauthorized aliens from this state.”
Lawmakers voted last week along party lines to remove the restriction on the location of the migrants. The measure approved by the Republican-controlled legislature also shifted control of the program from the Florida Department of Transportation to the Florida Department of Emergency Management, a move that would allow the DeSantis administration to award millions of dollars in no-bid contracts to facilitate the transportation of migrants.
The bill took effect immediately after DeSantis’ signing. Under the legislation, $10 million is set aside to fund the program through June. DeSantis in his proposed budget allocated another $12 million to continue the program.
The bill passed both chambers of the GOP-led Florida Legislature last week.
DeSantis said during a Wednesday news conference that people his administration transports to sanctuary jurisdictions are “in much better circumstances than just being stranded somewhere with nowhere to go” and he has “highlighted this issue in a way that would not have been highlighted any other way.”
“I would love to not have to deal with this at all. But you have a total disaster that’s unfolded on that border for over two years. You’ve had millions and millions of people come across illegally from over 100 different countries. Nobody knows who the folks are. We have no idea what they’re going to do when they when they get here.”
The program would also come under the purview of the Florida Division of Emergency Management. Because DeSantis has declared a state of emergency related to immigration, this would allow the administration to award millions of dollars in no-bid contracts to companies to move migrants across the country with little public disclosure.
The legislation comes as Florida has experienced a spike of migrants from Cuba and Haiti attempting to reach the state’s coast by boat. However, the bill’s sponsor, GOP state Sen. Blaise Ingoglia, said giving the DeSantis administration freedom to operate outside of Florida would help stem the flow of migrants into the state.
“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,” Ingoglia said last week during a committee hearing on the bill. “In fact, I would say that someone should declare the federal government itself its own disaster area.”
This story has been updated with additional information.