Florida bill clears $12M for DeSantis’ migrant relocation initiative months after Martha’s Vineyard flights

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis would receive $12 million to organize migrant relocation through a new sweeping immigration bill passed by the Florida legislature Tuesday.  The package passed the GOP-controlled state House along a party line 83-36 vote on Tuesday, sending the legislation to the governor’s desk. It cleared the state Senate last week.  The measure, CS/SB 1718, aims to impose stricter penalties for illegal immigration, including prohibiting counties and municipalities, respectively, from providing funds to any person, entity, or organization to issue identification documents to an individual who does not provide proof of lawful presence in the United States.  The bill specifies that certain driver licenses and permits issued by other states exclusively to unauthorized immigrants are not valid in the state, requires certain hospitals to collect patient immigration status data information on admission or registration forms and requires the Department of Economic Opportunity to enter a certain order and require repayment of certain economic development incentives if the department finds or is notified that an employer has knowingly employed an illegal immigrant.  DESANTIS EXPANDS DEATH PENALTY LAW FOR CONVICTED CHILD RAPISTS, DEFYING SUPREME COURT PRECEDENT For the 2023-2024 fiscal year, the bill also provides a $12 million nonrecurring appropriation to the Division of Emergency Management for the Unauthorized Alien Transport Program. The initiative drew national attention last year when DeSantis flew a group of South American migrants from Texas to the liberal enclave of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, which had touted broad support for sanctuary policies. Local leadership quickly claimed the wealthy islanders did not have enough resources to support the migrants, who were bussed to a military base in Cape Cod. The move was intended to challenge Democrats’ hypocrisy toward asylum seekers and protest federal immigration policy under the Biden administration.  NEW YORK REPUBLICAN LEE ZELDIN ‘KEEPING AN EYE’ ON RUN AGAINST DEMOCRAT SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND DeSantis, who is reportedly to announce a 2024 presidential bid in mid-May, framed the legislative package as a counter to Democratic President Joe Biden’s border policy, previously saying “we won’t turn a blind eye to the dangers of Biden’s Border Crisis. We will continue to take steps to protect Floridians from reckless federal open-border policies.” The measure also expands requirements for businesses with more than 25 staffers to use E-Verify.  In June 2022, a statewide grand jury was impaneled at the request of DeSantis for the purpose of investigating the impact of illegal immigration on Florida, the bill notes. In December 2022, the grand jury concluded that “the smuggling of illegal aliens not only endangers Floridians, but also generates huge sums of money for transnational criminal organizations which is used to further other criminal activities, including drug trafficking and human trafficking,” according to the measure.  The Associated Press contributed to this report. 
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