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California officials frustrated as Florida withholds records on migrant flights to Sacramento

abc Action News WFTS Tampa Bay by Katie LaGrone

Last month, Florida chartered two planes to fly 36 asylum-seeking migrants from New Mexico to Sacramento as part of the state’s $12 million migrant relocation program. Governor Ron DeSantis embraced the program to shine a light on America’s ongoing border issues.

“If there’s a policy to have an open border, then I think these sanctuary cities should be the ones that have to bear that,” Governor DeSantis said last month in response to questions about the flights.

But five weeks later, the DeSantis administration has yet to release public documents revealing how the flights were arranged and how much they cost.

“This is the least transparent administration that I’ve seen in the 35 years that I’ve been doing this work,” explained Michael Barfield, Director of Public Access at Florida’s Center for Government Accountability.

Last year, the non-partisan nonprofit sued the DeSantis administration after the state delayed turning over records related to its first round of migrant flights to Martha’s Vineyard.

The center won, and the state eventually released hundreds of records related to those flights (the state appealed a ruling it violated Florida sunshine laws, and that case is pending). But Barfield said Florida’s ongoing secrecy about its migrant relocation program recently prompted calls to his office from California Governor Gavin Newsom’s Legal Affairs Secretary, who is also seeking details about the Sacramento charters.

“They reached out to us because they are experiencing exactly what everyone else is, which is delay and denial of access to information about what and how these events came together,” Barfield explained.

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