The federal government has routinely flown asylum-seeking children on domestic flights for many years now. Some to be transferred to a different Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) contracted facility, others to be reunited with sponsors, who are oftentimes family members already living here. This is not a new thing, nor should it be controversial. We have a responsibility to ensure the well-being of children who flee to us in search of safety. But Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis is pretending it is controversial.
"Here's what happens with these flights. There's no notification to the state of Florida,” the right-wing governor claimed during a press conference. “These are done mostly in the middle of the night. And it's clandestine.” Kudos to DeSantis for trying out a new word, but just about everything else he claimed was complete bullshit. The Biden administration did inform Florida. Many flights happened during the day. And they’ve “occurred during multiple administrations, including that of former president Donald Trump,” CNN reported.
“For decades, the Office of Refugee Resettlement has been flying unaccompanied children from the border to shelters around the country,” American Immigration Council Policy Counsel Aaron Reichlin-Melnick tweeted in response to Rep. Lance Gooden. The Texas lawmaker had tweeted an ugly attack along the lines of DeSantis. “It’s literally how the system has always worked, since long before Biden took office. This kind of conspiratorial nonsense actively misleads.” But that’s also why DeSantis is doing what he’s doing.
“While DeSantis claimed the state was not notified, the Biden administration briefed the Florida governor's office over the summer about the flights, according to a source with knowledge of the flights and confirmed by DeSantis' press secretary Christina Pushaw,” CNN continued. That report said that Pushaw (herself a notorious Twitter troll) initially claimed the state hadn’t been informed, but then changed her tune when she found out CNN knew of a July briefing. So in other words, both DeSantis and his press secretary are liars, according to this report.
DeSantis also has no credibility when it comes to his claim that flights are “done mostly in the middle of the night.” Of the dozens of flights going into Florida, CNN said that only 15 were confirmed as having arrived overnight. “Sources told CNN the late-night arrivals were due to travel logistics, including the length of the flights from Texas and other stops they had to make on their way.”
Airlines notably acknowledged providing transportation services for the federal government in summer 2018, when a number of these companies said they would not transport children who’d been stolen from their parents under the previous administration’s family separation policy, a practice experts have acknowledged as “torture.” One of these companies, American Airlines, acknowledged in its statement that it has “carried refugees for non-profits and the government, many of whom are being reunited with family or friends.”
“Interstate flights of migrant children—to place them in shelters or with sponsors (usually family)—have also occurred over the past two decades, under R and D administrations. It’s not a Biden policy, it’s a process created by laws passed with bipartisan support in 2002, 2008,” tweeted CBS News’ Camilo Montoya-Galvez.
”I’ve been on these flights, including a late night one,” Montoya-Galvez continued. “There’s nothing clandestine about them. On board are children—many of whom just endured traumatic experiences—who are anxious, eager to reunite with family and talk about ordinary things like soccer.” DeSantis, an absolute goofball of a governor, is now also apparently floating suing the Biden administration over these flights, something he never even dared think about when he was busy following the previous president around like a big-eyed puppy. Children deserve safety and reunification with sponsors as soon as possible. It would be a complete disgrace to punish them for DeSantis’ craven political ambitions.