JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday said flights that have been carry migrants from the southern border into and through Jacksonville have halted, for the time being.
The News4Jax I-TEAM has been looking into the flights and discovered records where the state says as many as 78 flights have touched down at the Jacksonville International Airport in the last six months. On Thursday, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. attorney general demanding answers about the flights.
“It’s reckless to be bringing people in,” DeSantis said Monday.
The governor contends the Biden administration has been doing it under a veil of secrecy.
“No notice to the state for sure. The people at JAA (Jacksonville Aviation Authority) don’t know necessarily what’s happening until it happens there,” he said.
DeSantis met with the head of the JAA and Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry on Friday. DeSantis has previously said he is suing the Biden administration and hopes to stop future migrant charter flights from landing in and traveling through Florida.
When asked Monday about ending the flights, DeSantis replied, “Stay tuned. We are litigating with them. We are getting more and more - (Rep.) John Rutherford (R-Florida, District 4) has helped us get information.”
“Fortunately, since this has become an issue, we haven’t seen any flights since it’s become an issue,” DeSantis added. “Now, we’re not convinced that’s going to be the case going forward.
A statement from a spokesperson for Curry reads: “Mayor Curry met with Governor DeSantis, law enforcement and the CEO of Jacksonville International Airport Friday to discuss the many flights coming into Jacksonville, most landing in the middle of the night without confirmation of who is on board or whether they entered the city, or country, legally. Mayor Curry is concerned about the secrecy of these flights as his top priority has been, and continues to be, public safety. While the flights appear to have stopped for the time being, Mayor Curry, like the Governor, is seeking transparency and supports the lawsuit filed by The State of Florida seeking more information.”
Democratic lawmakers say these charter flights are necessary in dealing with the situation at the border and that it’s the federal government’s responsibility to help unaccompanied minors and asylum seekers.
Rep. Al Lawson, D-Florida District 5, said in a prior statement: “This unification process is not a new initiative. In fact, it started under the George W. Bush Administration shortly after 9/11.”
A Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson has said that the agency has “policies in place to maintain the privacy, security and well-being of minors in our care.”
DeSantis and other Republican lawmakers have pointed to the case of Yery Medina-Ulloa. Investigators say he came into the U.S. from Honduras illegally, posed as a teenager and was transferred to Jacksonville. Detectives say he killed a man he was living with.
Congressman Rutherford has said the flights are dangerous. He says he’s working on a bill that would require the federal government to tell local and state authorities about the migrant flights and who’s on them.
“Right now, we don’t know where they are, who is here, where they’re at. Sheriff (Mike) Williams is at a great disadvantage. Every sheriff in Northeast Florida is at a great disadvantage because we don’t know who they are and where they’re at,” Rutherford said.
In the letter Rubio sent to Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Attorney General Merrick Garland, he demands answers about the chartered flights and ground transportation including:
- Who is being transported
- Their immigrant status
- Whether they have been tested for COVID-19 or have shown proof of vaccination
- Their final destinations
- What security reviews they went through.