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I-TEAM: Documents show 78 flights carrying migrants landed in Jacksonville over last 6 months

The records obtained by News4Jax do not show where the migrant passengers went after landing

New documents shed light on dozens of flights that came through Jacksonville which Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis says are carrying migrants. Photos appear to show one of those flights landing last month with migrants getting off the plane.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – New documents shed light on dozens of flights that came through Jacksonville which Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis says are carrying migrants.

Photos appear to show one of those flights landing last month with migrants getting off the plane.

DeSantis has been trying to stop the planes from landing claiming they’re dangerous. The story has garnered national attention and lots of questions, so the News4Jax I-TEAM worked to obtain records about those flights.

News4Jax found these charter flights have been coming and going from Jacksonville International Airport for months usually at night.

News4Jax pulled the documents of charter planes possibly carrying migrants landing here and records show dozens of flights have landed over the past 6 months.

Pictures from local photographer David Rosenblum show a charter coming and offloading migrants into vans and buses.

An Avelo Airline charter plane from Houston, TX drops off migrants in Jacksonville, FL before flying to White Plains, NY to unload remaining migrants. (Courtesy David Rosenblum)

“It’s reckless and it’s wrong,” DeSantis said during a Jacksonville news conference earlier this month.

The flights have stirred controversy, especially among Republican leaders. DeSantis claims the Biden administration is moving migrants across the country under a veil of secrecy.

“So these are middle-of-the-night flights. No notification to the state or anybody. So this is not the way you keep people safe,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis said he’s working with the Florida legislature to stop these flights and points to the case of a Honduran migrant who posed as a teenager at the U.S.-Mexico border and was put on a flight to Jacksonville in August. Medina-Ulloa is now accused of killing a father of four in Arlington last month.

News4Jax obtained flight records from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement which the governor asked to investigate the flights.

“FDLE developed a reliable and confidential source who provided information about numerous flights coming into Jacksonville from various locations transporting what was believed to be potential illegal immigrants,” a spokeswoman said.

Records show 78 chartered flights from all over but most frequently Texas, Arizona and California arrived from April 22 to Oct. 6. One flight had at least 180 passengers on board.

Not all of the records News4Jax received made sense. One flight came from Ireland, for example, and another involves the National Guard. News4Jax has asked the state to clarify.

“It’s absolutely unacceptable and it’s a complete national security threat, as well as a threat to our local communities if we have no idea who is coming. Because quite frankly, there’s been no vetting, there’s been no identification and that’s a problem,” Rep. Kat Cammack, R-Gainesville, said.

Cammack, who’s on the House Homeland Security Committee, said the government is doing this without even briefing Congress. She said she’s not sure where the migrants are heading once they land.

“We have sent congressional inquiry after congressional inquiry,” she said. “Quite frankly, the administration needs to stop inviting them to come here. When you have a reconciliation bill this week that we’re going to be voting on that grants mass amnesty for people who come here illegally. That’s a magnet.”

News4Jax contacted the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services which is running flights for unaccompanied migrant children.

“It is our legal responsibility to safely care for unaccompanied children until they can be swiftly unified with a parent or a vetted sponsor,” a spokesperson said, adding they use air and ground transportation “taking into account child safety and wellness, travel time, and cost-effectiveness.”

The records obtained by News4Jax do not show where the migrant passengers are heading once they get into buses and vans but we do know that several non-profits and non-governmental organizations have been helping.

Meanwhile, Florida’s Attorney General Ashley Moody has teamed up with DeSantis to sue the Biden administration claiming relocating migrants to Florida is illegal.

News4Jax reached out to Congressman Al Lawson, a Democrat, for his take on the flights. He emailed us this statement:

“The program runs through HHS to safely bring children seeking asylum into our country as they await their immigration proceedings. A majority of their parents and relatives are in the United States and HHS’ Office of Refugee Resettlement helps to unite children with their families.  These flights allow our country to do what is morally right. We are building an immigration system based on humanity and working to keep families together, process asylum claims quickly and help unaccompanied minors get placed with loving, caring and safe relatives as fast as possible. This unification process is not a new initiative. In fact, it started under the George W. Bush Administration shortly after 9/11. This is just another talking point for the Governor to stir up controversy, rouse his base and disseminate misinformation.”

A statement from Sen. Marco Rubio reads: “Everyone knows this is crazy. President Biden’s refusal to enforce our laws is creating a crisis on our southern border, and now he is secretly exporting that crisis to Florida. It is reckless and dangerous.”


About the Author:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.