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Florida legislators to consider expanding DeSantis’ migrant flight program in special session

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to use a special legislative session next week to build out a high-profile program that was used last year to fly dozens of migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.

State legislators plan to consider a bill that would build on DeSantis’ executive order by creating an “Unauthorized Alien Transport Program” as part of an effort “to respond to the influx of migrants landing in the Florida Keys,” according to a pair of memos issued by legislative leaders to members of the state House and Senate.

The special session, which starts Monday, comes weeks after hundreds of Cuban and Haitian migrants arrived in the Florida Keys, after many of them made the treacherous journey in handmade boats.

GOP state Sen. Blaise Ingoglia is set to sponsor the new legislation, which would create a program within the Division of Emergency Management, according to the Senate memo.

Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, a Republican, said the bill would be used “to facilitate the voluntary transport of unauthorized migrants, who have been processed by the federal government and released into the United States.”

Details regarding how the program would be implemented were not immediately clear.

Ingoglia did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Both the House Speaker and Senate President’s offices provided their respective memos to NBC News but did comment on the matter.

DeSantis’ office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In addition to Ingoglia’s bill, state legislators will also be looking into Disney’s special governing district, which DeSantis aims to bring under direct state control after the company criticized his move last year to ban discussion of gender and sexual orientation in schools for kindergarten through third grade.

DeSantis, a potential 2024 presidential candidate who won re-election in November, drew harsh criticism from Democrats and immigrant advocates after migrants were flown from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.

The governor and other state officials were sued on allegations that the affected migrants were victims of fraud for political purposes.

Weeks later, a Texas sheriff declared the migrants victims of a crime and opened a criminal investigation into the Martha’s Vineyard flights as possible unlawful restraint. NBC News has reached out to Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar’s office to inquire about the status of that investigation.

Republicans have been critical of President Joe Biden’s approach to immigration amid efforts to largely dismantle his predecessor’s policies for migrants and asylum seekers.

Biden last month made a trip to El Paso, Texas, to assess enforcement operations at the U.S.-Mexico border after announcing that a Trump-era program known as Title 42 would be used to send thousands of Cubans, Haitians and Nicaraguans each month back over the southern border. At the same time, Biden said his administration would increase the number of legal paths for some migrants to apply for asylum.

source: nbcnews