Republican Governor Ron DeSantis paid an Oregon company with an airport hangar office in Destin, Florida $615,000 to transport approximately 50 asylum-seeking immigrants from Venezuela to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, according to several reports. On Friday he threatened there may be “more flights” to come.
“Records show the company, Vertol Systems Company Inc., was paid on Sept. 8. A week later, DeSantis took credit for sending a group of 48 migrants — most, if not all, from Venezuela — to Martha’s Vineyard,” the Tampa Bay Times reports. “Vertol Systems’ website shows it is based in Hillsboro, Oregon, but has operations in Destin in Florida’s Panhandle.”
What appears to be Vertol System’s website is currently down, but an archived copy says their mission is: “Organize quickly and deploy rapidly to provide personnel, maintenance support, management and operational experience to safely execute the mission.”
It also says it “is the only civil company currently operating Russian helicopters in the United States.”
The Florida governor, in a re-election battle with Democratic Congressman and former Florida governor Charlie Crist, “suggested for the second time this week that the migrants were not transported from the state, a requirement that Florida lawmakers included in the state budget when they approved the publicly funded program to relocate migrants.”
That requirement is apparently part of a Florida law that, according to attorney and former Florida Democratic Attorney General candidate Daniel Uhlfelder, also requires two bids for the contract.
DeSantis’s relocation statute requires two bids for these contracts. I wonder what other flight school program bid for this human trafficking gig. pic.twitter.com/x8ymlfDPS6
— Daniel Uhlfelder (@DWUhlfelderLaw) September 16, 2022
Uhlfelder adds: “So, how does DeSantis coordinate paying $600k to a helicopter company based out of Destin, FL with ties to well known Republican donor who went to prison for laundering funds for Mike Huckabee transport 50 migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard.”
Crist on social media said Friday, “Floridians paid $12,300 for each refugee DeSantis trafficked for his own political purposes.”
Popular Information founder Judd Lego notes that Vertol’s “CEO, James Montgomerie also donated $2700 to Matt Gaetz in 2016, and $5,000 to ‘North Florida Neighbors’ in 2017, a PAC set up to support Gaetz. Vertol Systems donated $7500 to North Florida Neighbors.”
Governor DeSantis, who holds several press conferences a week, told a crowd of supporters Friday, “There may be more flights, there may be buses,” Reuters notes.
The U.S. Dept. of Justice and the U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts are “looking into” DeSantis’ actions, and the White House is speaking out.
“These were children. They were moms. They were fleeing communism. And what did Governor DeSantis and Governor Abbott do to them? They used them as political pawns, treated them like chattel,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Friday.
“Many migrants who cross into the United States via the Southwest border are immediately expelled to Mexico or other countries under a COVID-19 pandemic policy,” Reuters adds. “But some nationalities, including Venezuelans, cannot be expelled because Mexico will not accept them and many seek to apply for U.S. asylum.”
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