The ride-hailing company that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis used to arrange flights for migrants to Martha’s Vineyard has funneled money to the governor’s key allies and has connections to a Florida official in charge of its current immigration policy.
Vertol Systems Inc, an Oregon-based airline that DeSantis used to ferry asylum seekers to the wealthy and liberal island of Massachusetts, has ties to DeSantis’ political allies and has donated money to various campaigns, NBC News reported.
The company was formerly represented by Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz, who was previously on DeSantis’ transition team when he became governor, and Gaetz’s former legal partner, Larry Keefe, who now works as the state’s “public safety czar” and is carrying out the controversial relocation program, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
Keefe previously represented Vertol in dozens of lawsuits between 2010 and 2017, the Times also reported.
Florida State Rep. Jay Trumbull Jr, a Republican involved in securing funds for the resettlement program as chairman of the appropriations committee, received a $1,000 donation from Vertol during his campaign for the Florida State Senate this year, the Intercept reported.
The company has also donated more than $12,000 in total to various political campaigns in Florida, including $2,500 to a super Pac who supported Gaetz.
The DeSantis administration has continually refused to release information about the money it gave Vertol for its role in relocating asylum seekers.
So far, the company has secured a $12 million contract and received more than $1 million from Florida to fly asylum seekers to Democratic-run northern cities, NBC News reported. , including migrants who are in other States.
Public records confirmed that Florida paid Vertol $615,000 last week to recruit about 50 Venezuelan migrants in Texas and transport them to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, with authorities noting that many migrants were tricked into crossing under the guise to receive resettlement resources such as cash assistance and employment. training, when no arrangement had been made with the island.
The chartered flights are currently the subject of a criminal investigation in Texas as well as a civil suit from the asylum seekers themselves who say they were tricked into going.
The company was also supposed to fly another group of asylum seekers on Tuesday to an airport near Joe Biden’s beach house in Delaware, but the charter flight never arrived, despite Florida giving Vertol 950 $000 extra.
As a result, 20 migrants hoping to make it to the state ended up stranded in San Antonio, the Miami Herald reported, with a source close to the governor’s thinking telling NBC News the governor deliberately left people in the state. ignorance of flight plans. .
The DeSantis administration did not disclose details of the contract it awarded Vertol, reveal why Vertol was selected to lead the relocation program, or respond to inquiries about whether multiple offers were solicited. regarding the program, as required by law, reported the times.
While DeSantis has defended the program, his administration has faced heavy criticism that they lacked the budgetary authority to fly asylum seekers, Politico reports, and Florida lawmakers have questioned whether the flights were legal.
Lawyers representing migrants have also argued that their clients are not “irregular aliens”, but asylum seekers, which is a separate legal category.