Florida grand jury issues scathing report on migrant flights through JAX, as attorney general calls for changes in laws

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A scathing grand jury report from the Florida Supreme Court details federal flights filled with migrant children coming through Jacksonville International Airport in 2021.

The News4JAX I-TEAM reported on more than 70 flights, often in the dark of night, coming through JAX filled with unaccompanied minors from Central and South America.

The flights stirred political controversy and continued the debate about treatment and handling of migrants, especially children.

Pictures from 2021 show some of the night flights with chartered planes landing at Jacksonville International Airport and unloading passengers who then got into vans and buses.

The News4JAX I-TEAM looked into these flights and found records showing at least 78 had been passing through JAX as part of a program with the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement. Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis said he wasn’t informed of the flights and quickly blamed the Biden administration.

“We are going to be proposing a series of legislation reform that will help strengthen Florida’s hands in finding back against the Biden border crisis that we have seen happening for almost the last year,” he said at a news conference on the tarmac at JAX, surrounded by supporting local lawmakers.

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Shortly after that, the flights through JAX tapered off.

The grand jury’s report is highly critical of the federal government’s migrant relocation program.

Among the key points are...

  • more than 70 flights arrived at JAX with migrant children, which Florida refers to as Unaccompanied Alien Children.
  • Airport police got very little notice the flights were arriving or who was on board.
  • Most of the passengers were older teenagers who were then shuttled to shelters and nonprofits with little more than a suitcase.

The grand jury is also critical of the money flow, noting:

  • The individuals are eligible for work visas and various government benefits.
  • And hundreds of millions of dollars went directly to nonprofit organizations.
  • Claiming the agency gave two companies $32 million in grants to run shelters that never opened.

The report accuses the government of letting adults posing as children into the U.S. with very little oversight and points out a Jacksonville murder case where 24-year-old Yery Medina-Ulloa claimed to be a minor. He got placed into a home where he brutally stabbed his sponsor, whom he claimed was his uncle.

The grand jury report also found that the Office of Refugee Resettlement had other sponsors in Jacksonville with addresses that included a strip club, empty lots surrounded by stacked shipping containers or open fields; again pointing to the lack of information as to where the children ultimately wound up.

Florida’s attorney general, Ashley Moody, wrote in a statement that she’s “calling upon Congress to investigate and consider federal law to stop these misguided programs.”

Many people remember Gov. DeSantis fired back, in 2022 sponsoring his own charter flights with migrants, sending them to Democrat-run places like Washington D.C. and famously Martha’s Vineyard.

News4JAX reached out to the Office of Refugee Resettlement for comment to the criticism, but has not received a response back.

The I-TEAM did submit a public records request for information on the flights from the federal government – it said no records existed.

About the Author:

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