Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis intends to use a special legislative session next week to push for legislation expanding his controversial migrant relocation program, according to a GOP memo. File Photo by Gary I Rothstein/UPI | License Photo
Feb. 4 (UPI) -- Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis will seek to expand a controversial migrant relocation program under which refugees have been transported to Massachusetts in an upcoming legislative session, documents show.
A memorandum issued Friday by the Republican speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, Paul Renner, to GOP lawmakers describes the party's goals in next week's special legislative session. One such goal is to create an "Unauthorized Alien Transport Program."
The proposed bill, Renner explains, is an attempt "to help mitigate the ongoing impacts of unauthorized aliens coming to the State of Florida" by creating a new program within the state's Division of Emergency Management aimed at facilitating "the voluntary transport of unauthorized migrants."
According to the memorandum, the list of legislative goals were formulated "in coordination" with DeSantis' office.
The description of the program as "voluntary" is under challenge by a lawsuit filed by three Venezuelan migrants who were relocated under Florida's program from Texas to Massachusetts in September.
That month, DeSantis sent two charter flights to Martha's Vineyard carrying dozens of Venezuelan immigrants who had arrived in Texas. Local officials in Texas have said they were not consulted, while the plaintiffs allege they were tricked into relocating with promises of work and pay.
Their lawsuit alleges that DeSantis "designed and executed a premeditated, fraudulent, and illegal scheme centered on exploiting this vulnerability for the sole purpose of advancing their own personal, financial and political interests."
The description of migrants as "unauthorized aliens" is also in dispute as many of the relocated people are asylum-seekers legally entitled to apply for asylum after entering the United States, regardless of how they entered.
DeSantis, a likely contender for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, continued to voice support for his migrant relocation efforts this week.
"We have had a deterrent effect, and people are sick of having an open border with no rule of law in this country," he told reporters Wednesday.
The GOP memo indicated the special legislative session is set to address other controversial issues as well, including the status of the Reedy Creek Improvement District.
The special district, which since 1967 has allowed the Walt Disney Company to act as its own private government at its Disney World resort in Orlando, was eliminated by the Legislature's Republican majority last year amid a feud with the entertainment giant over its opposition to Florida's "Parental Rights in Education" law, which critics have dubbed the "Don't Say Gay" bill.
The session is set to consider whether the state should take over the district, rather than simply dissolve it.