The Treasury Department’s Inspector General will evaluate Governor Ron DeSantis’ expenditures on migrant flight operations to see if DeSantis fraudulently utilized Covid-19 assistance funds to organize the flights.
The agency’s inspector general’s office confirmed to several Massachusetts’ Democratic congressional delegation members that it planned to start an investigation. They implied that they would launch the investigation into Florida’s spending as part of ongoing audits into how states have used the billions sent to them as part of the American Rescue Plan.
The Democrats were outraged by DeSantis’ use of two charter planes to transfer roughly 50 Venezuelan migrants from San Antonio to Martha’s Vineyard last month. DeSantis claimed the move was intended to call attention to President Joe Biden’s immigration policy, while Democrats accused the Florida governor of exploiting vulnerable migrants for political gain. Biden referred to DeSantis’ travels as “reckless,” and numerous Democrats, including California Governor Gavin Newsom, have requested an investigation into DeSantis’ flights.
Several organizations have launched legal challenges to prevent Florida from aiding more shipments, and a Texas sheriff is investigating the planes. However, the Treasury letter is the first time federal authorities have stated that they have acknowledged they’re looking into the transports.
Florida did not use federal Covid-19 monies directly to transport migrants. However, earlier this year, state legislators mandated that $12 million in interest collected on Covid-19 aid be used to fund the transfer of “illegal aliens from this state.” Florida has paid a Panhandle-based corporation $1.56 million to fly migrants to Democratic strongholds, and DeSantis has pledged to continue the practice.
The Massachusetts’ Democrats welcomed the Treasury’s “rapid action,” according to his representative. Sen. Ed Markey also praised the government in a tweet that it will examine DeSantis’ use of Covid relief funding to mercilessly transport migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard under false pretenses and disregard for their human dignity or basic necessities.
Markey requested Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg at the end of last month to examine if DeSantis’ migrant charter flights violated departmental standards by allegedly deceiving passengers.
The letter from the deputy inspector general, Richard K. Delmar, does not specify how long it will take for the inspector general’s office to investigate Florida’s expenditures. However, it does state that auditors have already requested information from Florida on how it has used Covid-19 assistance. DeSantis and the Republican-controlled Legislature have utilized American Rescue Plan funds for various projects, including incentives for first responders and a one-month gas tax vacation.
The letter from Delmar reads we intend to begin this work as soon as practicable, consistent with our other supervision responsibilities and priorities in pandemic recovery efforts and other Treasury programs and operations for which we are responsible. We are also following legislative and judicial challenges to using the money for this purpose; these developments may impact the scope and timeline of our study.
The empty post of inspector general reports to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and provides independent departmental reports.
Democrats appeal to the Treasury, and the newly announced audit is the latest in a series of efforts to push back on the Florida governor after DeSantis transported migrants from Texas to the progressive bastion of Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. The transportation of migrants to Martha’s Vineyard is a move Democrats have criticized as a “terrible idea” and a “publicity stunt.”
Sen. Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts, applauded the statement on Wednesday and claimed credit for persuading the Treasury Department to act. Markey boasted in a tweet that @USTreasury responded to my letter indicating that it will examine [Gov. DeSantis’] use of Covid relief monies to mercilessly transfer immigrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard under false pretenses and without regard for their human dignity or fundamental necessities.
DeSantis is now dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Ian and maintaining a laser-like focus on recovery operations. Many Floridians applaud the government’s efforts and feel that DeSantis is focusing on the state’s requirements.