IG Treasury Department investigates DeSantis migrant thefts

There was no immediate response from Treasury officials.

Taryn Fenske, a spokeswoman for DeSantis, said officials from the governor’s budget office spoke to the inspector general’s office “weeks ago” about using interest income to pay for the program. transport and that the State maintains that its use of the money is authorized under the rules adopted for money sent to the States.

Fenske added that “reviews by the Treasury are typical and, as the OIG said, are ‘part of its oversight responsibilities’.”

Last month, DeSantis used two charter flights to ferry nearly 50 Venezuelan migrants from San Antonio to Martha’s Vineyard, a move that drew widespread outrage from Democrats. DeSantis argued the move was meant to draw attention to President Joe Biden’s administration’s immigration policies, but Democrats have accused the Florida governor of using vulnerable migrants in a political stunt. Biden called DeSantis’ thefts “reckless” and several Democrats, including California Governor Gavin Newsom, called on the Justice Department to investigate DeSantis’ thefts.

Several groups have filed legal challenges to stop Florida from facilitating more transportation, and a Texas sheriff is now investigating the thefts. But the Treasury letter marks the first time that federal authorities have acknowledged that they are reviewing transportation.

Florida did not directly use federal Covid-19 funds to transport migrants. But earlier this year, state lawmakers ordered that $12 million in interest earned on Covid-19 aid be used to pay for transportation for “unauthorized aliens of this state.” Florida has so far paid a Panhandle-based company $1.56 million to transport migrants, but DeSantis has pledged to continue transporting them to the blue strongholds.

Markey applauded the “swift response” from the Treasury, a spokesperson for the Massachusetts Democrat said. Markey also, in a tweet, praised the department for confirming it would investigate “DeSantis’ use of Covid relief funds to cruelly transport migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard under false pretenses and without any regard for their personal dignity or basic needs”.

Late last month, Markey asked Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to investigate whether DeSantis migrant charter flights had violated department rules by allegedly misleading those on board.

Delmar’s letter provides no timeline on how long it would take the inspector general’s office to review Florida’s expenses, although it does note that auditors had “already requested information from Florida” about the how she spent the Covid-19 aid. DeSantis and the Republican-controlled Legislature used U.S. bailout money for a wide range of programs, including bonuses for first responders and a month-long gas tax waiver.

“We plan to initiate this work as quickly as possible, consistent with our other oversight mandates and priorities, both in pandemic recovery programs as well as other Treasury programs and operations for which we are responsible” , says Delmar’s letter. “We are also monitoring legislative and court challenges to the use of funds for this purpose; such developments may affect the scope and timing of our review.

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