Gov. Ron DeSantis wants to prohibit firms that transport unaccompanied migrant kids from the southern border from receiving state contracts.
What is the issue? According to data, no firm that the governor’s administration has named has state contracts or receives money from the state.
It’s one of the issues with DeSantis’s hazily defined policy drive, which is a key component of the divisive immigration legislation he’s promoting ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.
The federal government contracts with companies participating in the programme, which is largely managed via the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement, to transport unaccompanied youngsters from the southern border all across the country, including regularly to Jacksonville International Airport.
The flights have been happening for a long time, but they’ve become more common under President Joe Biden, and Republicans are increasingly using the programme as political fodder to highlight what they claim are failed border policies that have resulted in the administration sending potentially dangerous undocumented immigrants across the country.
After a 24-year-old Honduran immigrant reportedly lied about his age to get on the planes and is now suspected of murdering a Jacksonville man, that argument gained support among Republicans and others.
In December, DeSantis used the Jacksonville International Airport as a background to explain why he wanted the Republican-controlled legislature to approve legislation prohibiting the state from awarding contracts to firms that perform flights.
He said at the time that he had gone over a list of suppliers that participated in the government programme.
Shortly after the Dec. 10 press conference, the source requested the list, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement responded on Friday with a spreadsheet containing abbreviated names of the charter companies, dates when the flights took place, and which federal agency appeared to be in charge, among other details. The list was prepared by an unnamed third-party source.
“FDLE developed a source who gave us the information,” said Gretl Plessinger, a representative for the agency. “The spreadsheet contains all of the information we got.” She didn’t go into detail about who the person was or how they were related to the programme.
Six firms’ names were included in the list, the majority of which are relatively unknown airlines or charter aviation companies.
According to state records, none of those named by the source presently receive money from the state for any services or have ongoing public contracts.
One of the firms, “World ATL,” was unable to be recognised, while another, “Elite Air,” yielded several results. The source contacted one firm, which indicated it was not them, while another did not respond to demands for comment.
When asked if the Florida Department of Law Enforcement had more precise information to identify the firms to ensure that if the state banned future state contracts, it would be from the proper company the department responded it didn’t.
Plessinger explained, “The only information we have is what’s on the spreadsheet.”
DeSantis’ office said it is still looking for suitable suppliers to participate in the federal programme.
On Friday, DeSantis spokeswoman Christina Pushaw stated, “The governor has been clear no corporation that engages in the Biden Administration’s human smuggling programme should get any state funds.”
“To that end, we’re utilising every tool at our disposal to identify such firms, and we’re working on legislation to make sure they don’t get any public money.”
She went on to say, “This includes taking measures to further identify all implicated parties.”
Republicans have been particularly critical of migrant flights since many of them take place at night, ostensibly to make them more difficult to track.
“Our actions are compelled by the Biden Administration’s utter failure to endorse our nation’s immigration laws, as well as our federal ‘partners” complete lack of cooperation and information sharing under the leadership of Biden’s political appointees,” Pushaw stated.
Between May and October 2021, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement got documents from a “source” that revealed 78 total flights, 34 from Houston and 17 from El Paso.
More than half of those flights are identified as being operated by “Swift Air,” a subsidiary of the iAero Group that specialises in charter flights for high-profile clients and has long maintained federal contracts for the transportation of immigrants.
The University of Washington’s Center for Human Rights identified the firm as one of the leading airlines participating in US Immigration and Customs Enforcement deportation flights in 2019.
On Friday, a person who answered the phone for the firm, which has offices in Miami and Phoenix, told the source to send queries through email. The source’s queries were not answered by the Enero Group.
DeSantis’ plan to prohibit state contracts from going to suppliers that engage in the programme is a crucial component of similar immigration measures introduced in the House and Senate last week. Despite DeSantis saying in early December that he had reviewed the list, state Sen.
Aaron Bean, a Fernandina Beach Republican who is sponsoring the bill, told members Monday that he was unaware of companies that would be affected by the proposal during a contentious meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Senate President Wilton Simpson said on Thursday that it didn’t matter who the corporations are now since the law aimed to eliminate future public contracts. However, it’s uncertain if the state will join into such agreements.
He told the source, “It will be a consequence of doing it in the future.” “You will not be allowed to do business in the state.”
The Senate’s immigration bill, in addition to prohibiting state contracts, requires local law enforcement agencies to enter into cooperation agreements with federal immigration officials and expands Florida’s sanctuary cities policies, which a federal judge said were crafted with the help of “anti-immigrant hate groups” in September.
Over the objections of Democrats and immigration groups, senators advanced the idea on a party-line vote during its first Senate committee hearing.
“It simply goes to demonstrate that there’s no value to this other than to make a political message to the federal government,” Sen. Tina Scott Polsky said (D-Boca Raton).
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“As I stated in committee, this bill would not have been discussed two years ago.” All of the public safety justifications they cite are bogus. Stopping the movement of children to Florida to receive care would not make anybody safer.”