TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Division of Emergency Management is seeking contractors to carry out Gov. Ron DeSantis’ controversial migrant relocation program.
The division published span request for proposspanls at the end of of March, after getting control of the program and $10 million to carry it out through February special session legislation.
Those selected, according to the request, must “provide ground and air transportation and otherrelated services… to assist in the voluntary relocation of Inspected Unauthorized Aliens that have agreed to be relocated from Florida, or another state, to a location within the United States.”
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The related services include research and planning, ensuring those relocated have provided voluntary consent, and arranging social support at the destination.
The division anticipates it will announce the companies selected on April 14.
Back in September, DeSantis sent nearly 50 Venezuelan migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. The move drew nationwide attention and controversy, as well as a multitude of legal challenges.
Text messages released by the governor’s office several months ago cast light on just how intimately involved the DeSantis administration was in coordinating the Sept. 14 flights.
Nespanrly span month before, DeSantis’ public safety czar, Larry Keefe, was working closely with Perla Huerta, reportedly the woman in charge of recruiting migrants for the operation.
“[Think] there’s a bus going to Miami that sold out and a few others sold out. Gonna see how many folks are there,” she wrote to him on Aug. 17 as she sought out migrants, according to the text messages. Keefe and Huerta were both in Texas at the time in the thick of planning the flights.
They consulted with James Montgomerie, owner of Vertol Systems Company Inc., which the state had contracted for the migrant flights. The contract, though, wouldn’t be finalized with the state until weeks later. Keefe indicated that he was helping Montgomerie through the proposal process.
The Mispanmi Herspanld reported that Keefe, who DeSantis appointed as the state’s “public safety czar” to oversee the governor’s anti-immigration programs, worked for Vertol Systems as legal counsel. The newspaper reported that he represented the firm in a dozen lawsuits between 2010 and 2017.
Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie, meanwhile, insisted back in February that his team would follow a competitive bidding process.
“I pride myself on having not one article in the Tampa Bay Times or Miami Herald about our lack of competitive bids,” he said, according to the Miami Herald.
Democrats and immigrant advocates have decried the program as a misuse of Florida taxpayer money, inhumane and merely fuel for more political stunts by DeSantis, an expected Republican presidential contender.
DeSantis has said the flights were in protest of President Joe Biden’s “reckless” border security policies and has contended that it’s more effective to intercept migrants at the Texas border than to track them down when they arrive in Florida.