Florida allocates $12 million to transport 'unauthorized aliens from this state'

More than $1.5 million already paid for 'relocation program'
Posted at 7:00 PM, Sep 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-20 19:00:06-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The Contact 5 Investigative Team took a look into the dollars the state of Florida spent flying undocumented migrants to Martha's Vineyard last week.

Buried near the bottom of the state's 2022 General Appropriations Act, WPTV found $12 million earned in interest from federal coronavirus dollars that came to Florida. The money was allocated to "facilitate the transport of unauthorized aliens from this state."

Records show the state has already paid a company more than $1.5 million for a "relocation program of unauthorized aliens."

The first payment was on Sept. 8 for $615,000. The most recent payment came Monday for $950,000, state records show.

RELATED: DeSantis pulls back curtain on how migrants were sent to Massachusetts

Immigrants flown to Martha's Vineyard stand outside St. Andrews Episcopal Church, Sept. 14, 2022
Immigrants gather with their belongings outside St. Andrews Episcopal Church, Wednesday Sept. 14, 2022, in Edgartown, Mass., on Martha's Vineyard. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday flew two planes of immigrants to Martha's Vineyard, escalating a tactic by Republican governors to draw attention to what they consider to be the Biden administration's failed border policies.

Gov. Ron DeSantis didn't take questions Tuesday during a stop in West Palm Beach, but he defended the flight earlier in the day during a stop in Bradenton.

"Those migrants were being treated horribly by Biden. They were hungry, homeless. They had no opportunity at all," DeSantis said. "It was volunteer, offered transport to sanctuary jurisdictions because it's our view that one, the border should be secured and we want to have Biden reinstitute policies like remain in Mexico," DeSantis said.

State Sen. Lori Berman is among the Democratic politicians voicing opposition following a migrant flight from Florida to Martha's Vineyard.
State Sen. Lori Berman is among the Democratic politicians voicing opposition following a migrant flight from Florida to Martha's Vineyard.

Critics of the flight, including state Sen. Lori Berman, D-Delray Beach, are questioning the flight, use of the dollars and if budget provisions were followed. She called it a political stunt.

"When you look at the budget provisions, it says the migrants have to have come from Florida, so I really question that since we know they were recruited in Texas, and it says that it has to be done through a procedure where the Department of Transporation bids out different vendors — at least two is what the statutory language says — and we have no idea if that procedure was even followed," Berman said.

WPTV reached out to the governor's office Tuesday afternoon to ask why the state is spending these dollars on the flights. We're waiting to hear back.