Records obtained by American Oversight and reported on by the Tallahassee Democrat offer new details about Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ controversial and costly program of transporting migrants to liberal states to score political points.
The documents include contract amendments that require the companies conducting the migrant flights to “ensure each participating individual understands and accepts that no goods or services, such as lodging accommodations, additional travel, or other arrangements will be provided” by the company at the destination. This language had not been included in previous versions of the contracts released to the public.
Following the public outcry after DeSantis’ initial flights transporting migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard in September 2022, media reports revealed that at least some of the migrants were lured onto flights under false pretenses of jobs and housing. Some immigration rights advocates say the migrants could be victims of human trafficking. In June, a Texas sheriff filed a criminal case alleging the migrants had been unlawfully restrained.
American Oversight obtained contracts between the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) and companies hired for work on the migrant transportation program, including GardaWorld Federal Services, ARS Global Emergency Management, and Vertol Systems Company. The records also include a “scope of work” provided by FDEM that states the initial contracts are intended to end on June 30, 2025. Some of the documents were also separately obtained by the Tampa Bay Times.
The new language regarding promises of lodging and accommodations was contained in previously unpublished amendments to the agreements with GardaWorld and Vertol. The amendments also state that contractors must ensure migrants have been processed and released by the U.S. federal government. The Democrat interviewed an immigration expert who said this is “likely to avoid legal peril or accusations of improper behavior while still allowing DeSantis to score political points with conservative pundits and voters.”
Other records obtained by American Oversight include proposals for work on the migrant transportation program submitted to FDEM by GardaWorld, ARS, Vertol, Hagerty Consulting Inc., and PAL Services, many of which have been heavily redacted.
Beyond the question of misleading migrants in order to lure them onto flights, the records also show that the program continues to be expensive. ARS’s proposal included a price of $150 per hour for “stage 1” of the transportation program. GardaWorld’s proposal was also heavily redacted but included a price of $100 per hour. PAL Services estimated a lump sum of $200,000 and Hagerty Consulting proposed a price of $295,585.
An unredacted portion of the proposal submitted by Vertol Systems stated that, previously, the company had “successfully contacted, selected, vetted, housed and transported migrants to a migration support center in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts,” for which it was paid $1.3 million. Vertol Systems — which the Democrat reported has strong ties to Florida congressman Matt Gaetz and the state’s public safety czar, Larry Keefe — requested a lump sum of $487,000 for “stage 1” of the program.
American Oversight will continue to investigate Florida’s exploitative migrant transportation programs and the spending of taxpayer dollars to use asylum-seekers and undocumented immigrants for political stunts. Read more about our related work here.
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