DeSantis’ plan to bus migrants from Florida to Delaware on standby

DeSantis said a similar program in Texas is affecting how many migrants are coming to Florida.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott hold a news conference in Del Rio, Texas, to talk about a three-week effort by a contingent of Florida law enforcement officers to help enforce the U.S.-Mexico border.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott hold a news conference in Del Rio, Texas, to talk about a three-week effort by a contingent of Florida law enforcement officers to help enforce the U.S.-Mexico border. [ ANA CEBALLOS | Miami Herald ]
Published Aug. 23, 2022|Updated Aug. 23, 2022

Gov. Ron DeSantis has talked about busing undocumented immigrants out of the state for the better part of the year, and his administration has $12 million to roll out a program that could do just that.

But the Republican governor on Tuesday said that a similar program in Texas has “taken a lot of pressure off” his administration, suggesting that DeSantis is not in any rush to start relocating migrants out of Florida.

“I think because of what Texas has done, I actually think that’s taken a lot of pressure off us,” DeSantis told reporters in Tallahassee on Tuesday morning.

Texas has been busing migrants to Washington, D.C., and New York City since April as part of a program called “Operation Lone Star” that was launched in rebuke of President Joe Biden’s immigration policies.

Texas’ program is voluntary for migrants who show documentation that have been processed and released by the Department of Homeland Security, and the state pays for the travel expenses, according to the Texas Tribune.

More than 7,000 migrants have been sent to Washington since April and another 900 to New York since Aug. 5, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said last week.

In Florida, DeSantis has been talking about doing something similar. He asked the Republican-led Legislature for $8 million to roll out a program that would allow the state to contract with private transportation companies to bus people to other parts of the country. Specifically, he talked about Delaware, the state Biden calls home.

Related: DeSantis wants $8 million to remove 'unauthorized aliens' from Florida

The Legislature agreed to the idea and included $12 million for it in the state budget for the current fiscal year, which started July 1.

The Florida Department of Transportation, which would oversee the busing program, said back in April that once the budget was signed, the state agency “will immediately be authorized to enter into contracts with private entities.”

But the program has yet to start, and the state agency said on Monday that there is no “information on implementation at this time.” When asked about the delay, the state agency did not answer.

DeSantis suggested on Tuesday the reason may be that Texas’ program is having an influence on the number of migrants that are coming to Florida, though he did not provide specifics on how he is quantifying that.

“I think because Texas has done that, we haven’t seen what I was expecting we would see,” DeSantis said.

Taryn Fenske, his communications director, added that the administration is trying to get a better handle of how many migrants are being brought to Florida by the federal government.

Since taking office in 2019, DeSantis has pushed for hardline immigration policies. The busing program is the latest one, and the plan was recently caught in the middle of controversial comments made by Lt. Gov. Jeannette Nuñez.

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In an interview with 1040 AM Actualidad Radio over the weekend, Nuñez was asked her opinion on the historic number of Cubans coming from the communist island through the southern U.S. border to South Florida, and how it may impact communities in the state. She went on to say, “He’s [DeSantis] going to send them, very frankly, to the State of Delaware, the state of the President.”

Related: Did Florida’s lieutenant governor say ‘illegal’ Cuban migrants will be sent to Delaware?

After facing criticism from Democrats, immigration advocates and some Cuban Americans across the political spectrum, Nuñez said on Monday that her comments were being twisted by her opponents.

She later published a statement on Twitter, saying in part that “entering the country illegally and fleeing a dictatorship to seek asylum are two different things, and misinterpreting that is offensive.”