TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A private aviation broker in Florida estimated the cost at nearly $500,000 for the two private flights that transported 48 migrants from Texas, through Florida and then to Martha’s Vineyard on Wednesday.
Gov. Ron DeSantis has not yet said why the jets landed in Florida but he implied at a Friday news conference that no one boarded or got off at Crestview Airport on Wednesday.
From Florida, the migrants were flown to Spartanburg, South Carolina, and then to Martha’s Vineyard in what added up to a nearly 1,800-mile journey.
Ben Hague of Ben Hague Aviation in Estero estimated a “ballpark” cost for each flight at $230,000, though he acknowledged the cost could have been even higher since the pilots would have been over their hour limits, requiring them to stay overnight where they landed.
A document on Transparency Florida indicated Vertol Systems Inc. received $615,000 from the Florida Department of Transportation for the “relocation program of unauthorized aliens.” It is not known if that money was used for the Martha’s Vineyard flights.
Gov. DeSantis’ office has not responded to questions about the cost, nor which, if any, Florida state personnel were involved in the transportation process in Texas.
A Florida Department of Law Enforcement spokesperson said that agency was not involved. Florida National Guard and Highway Patrol have not responded to questions about whether they were involved.
As far as why Florida taxpayer money was used to transport people out of Texas, DeSantis said Florida officials sent to the border have collected data indicating 40% of border-crossers want to come to Florida. He said Florida law enforcement have found migrants crossing the state border in cars, but he claimed — in his opinion — that it made more sense to go to Texas to find larger groups of people.
“So, they’ve been in Texas identifying people that are trying to come to Florida and then offering them free transportation to sanctuary jurisdictions,” DeSantis said. “And there’s likely to be buses and more planes but I’ll tell you this — the legislature gave me $12 million and I’m going to spend every penny.”
A week ago, DeSantis offered a hint about the flights to Massachusetts, The Washington Post reported, when he told donors at a fundraiser that he intended to use the money to “go to Texas and help.”
“Maybe we’ll send (some) to Chicago, Hollywood, Martha’s Vineyard. Who knows?” DeSantis said, according to the article.
Martha’s Vineyard officials have since bussed all the migrants out of the area and to another location.