Plane possibly carrying migrants doesn’t show up in Delaware

·3 min read

ORLANDO, Fla. — For hours Tuesday, Delaware officials prepared for a possible unannounced wave of migrants sent by Gov. Ron DeSantis to land at an airport less than 20 miles from the vacation home of President Joe Biden near Rehoboth Beach.

But as of early evening, a planeload of migrants had not arrived in Delaware, and the officials and volunteers who had waited for their arrival began to go home.

Speculation arose early Tuesday after one of two planes that flew 48 mostly Venezuelan migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard last week was scheduled to leave San Antonio and travel to Delaware Coastal Airport in Georgetown, Delaware, according to FlightAware, an aviation-tracking website.

“Our teams at (Delaware Emergency Management Agency) and (Delaware Department of Health and Social Services) are working with community organizations and other partners to make sure that migrants who arrive here have the support that they need,” Emily David Hershman, a spokeswoman for Democratic Gov. John Carney, told the Delaware News Journal early in the day.

At a news conference in Bradenton, DeSantis said he could not confirm that the new flight was carrying migrants to Delaware.

But he repeated his assertion that because so few migrants were coming to Florida, his administration has to go to other states to find people who might potentially want to come here.

“If I could do it all in Florida, I would,” he said. “But if we just ignore the source we are going to have people trickling in five, 10 a day ... and there is no way to track all that because it’s on such a small scale.”

Asked about DeSantis possibly sending migrants to Delaware, Biden responded: “He should come visit. We have a beautiful shoreline.”

DeSantis has vowed to spend “every cent” of the $12 million allocated to move migrants. The same contractor that organized last week’s operation, Vertol Systems, an aviation consultant based in Destin, has been paid $950,000 by the Florida Department of Transportation for two more flights to relocate “unauthorized aliens.”

On Monday, the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office in Texas announced a criminal investigation into the first transfers carried out by Florida’s governor.

Bexar Sheriff Javier Salazar revealed the criminal probe, saying the original group was “lured” to the planes in his county with false promises of jobs and other benefits.

Appearing on Fox News with commentator Sean Hannity on Monday night, DeSantis the flights were “clearly voluntary and all the other nonsense you are hearing is just not true.”

DeSantis paid Vertol $615,000 in taxpayer money to charter the two jets and other expenses for what his critics have called a possibly illegal “political stunt.”

The funds were among the billions of dollars sent to the state by Congress for COVID pandemic relief. DeSantis was authorized by the Legislature to spend $12 million of that pot of money to move migrants out of Florida, not from other states. The Department of Transportation was put in charge of the program and was supposed to seek two bids before awarding the contract.

Those two irregularities prompted state Democrats to ask Republican leaders of the Legislature to bar him from using the funds.

While DeSantis calls them “illegal immigrants” or “illegal aliens,” the sheriff and others have pointed out the migrants from Texas were in the U.S. legally awaiting hearings seeking asylum.