Florida Passes Law Backing DeSantis’ Attempt to Relocate Migrants | Migration news

Republican lawmakers are creating a $10 million program to fund the governor’s effort, which critics say treats people like “chess pieces.”

Lawmakers in the US state of Florida have passed a bill supporting Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ efforts to transport migrants and asylum seekers to Democratic-controlled parts of the United States, a move critics have slammed as “indefensible.”

The measure approved Friday provides $10 million to create a new initiative — called the Unauthorized Alien Transportation Program — to fund DeSantis’ plan.

Last year, Florida’s governor — a rising conservative star expected to run for president in 2024 — joined other Republican state leaders in funding the relocation of asylum seekers to largely liberal areas of the country.

DeSantis still has to sign Friday’s legislation, which allows his administration to transport migrants from anywhere in the US, before it becomes law. The measure passed 77-34 in the Florida House along party lines, local media reported.

“This bill is indefensible,” Democratic Rep. Christopher Benjamin said Friday in the state House of Representatives. “They are human beings, not chess pieces. Stop playing with people’s lives.”

Last September, DeSantis chartered two flights to transport dozens of migrants and asylum seekers from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, an affluent community in northeastern Massachusetts.

The migrants arrived unannounced, local authorities said, sparking outrage and questions about the legality of the transfer. The White House then condemned the incident as cruel “political theater”.

Over the past year, the Republican governors of Texas and Arizona have also sent busloads of migrants to New York City, Chicago and Washington, DC, including dozens who were unloaded near the home of Vice President Kamala Harris in December.

While many asylum seekers voluntarily embarked on such journeys, some said they were misled.

Massachusetts immigration attorney Rachel Self told reporters when last year’s flights arrived in Martha’s Vineyard that the migrants “were told they were in for a surprise and that there would be jobs and housing waiting for them when they arrived.”

Republicans have said the resettlement campaign aims to draw attention to a growing immigration “crisis” at the US’s southern border, where a record number of asylum seekers have arrived in recent months seeking protection.

Conservatives blamed President Joe Biden for raising the border.

“The Legislature finds that the federal government has failed to secure state borders and allowed a wave of screened unauthorized aliens to enter the United States,” the Florida bill said Friday.

The bill also said the program aims to protect Florida from the “harmful” effects of migration, including “increased crime, reduced economic opportunities and wages for American workers, and burdens on the education and health care systems.”

Numerous independent studies have found that immigration boosts the US economy. Undocumented immigrants are also far less likely to break the law than native citizens, the data show.

DeSantis has made headlines for implementing far-right policies on issues of national concern, including the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, abortion and education. He is widely considered a major challenger to former President Donald Trump’s bid for the 2024 Republican nomination.

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