WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of the Treasury will investigate whether Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis misused pandemic relief funds to fly a group of Venezuelan migrants from Texas to Massachusetts in September, a U.S. Senator said.
Sen. Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts, confirmed the investigation in a tweet Tuesday night.
The state flew the migrants from San Antonio to the wealthy island of Martha’s Vineyard, after a brief stop in the Florida Panhandle.
The Treasury Department confirmed its investigation after Markey and a group of Massachusetts U.S. representatives sent the agency a letter in September asking for an investigation, requesting the department’s Office of the Inspector General “investigator whether the State of Florida has improperly used funds obtained or derived from the State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund (SLFRF) to transport persons to Massachusetts.”
DeSantis has defended the flights to the so-called “sanctuary state,” saying the migrants went voluntarily.
“Our view is that you’ve got to deal with it at the source, and if they’re intending to come to Florida or many of them are intending to come to Florida, that’s our best way to make sure they end up in a sanctuary,” the governor said in September.
A spokesperson for the governor responded to the news of the Treasury investigation Wednesday:
“Weeks ago, the Office of Policy and Budget (OPB) spoke with the US Department of the Treasury’s (Treasury) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) about using interest gained from the State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) program to transport illegal immigrants voluntarily to sanctuary jurisdictions.
As stated under the SLFRF Compliance Requirements, ‘the following provisions do not apply to the SLFRF program: 2 CFR § 200.305 (b)(8) and (9).’ OPB articulated to Treasury’s OIG that our use of this interest, as appropriated by the Florida Legislature, is permissible under the SLFRF Final Rule.
Reviews by Treasury are typical and, as stated by the OIG, are ‘part of its oversight responsibilities.’”Taryn Fenske, Communications Director
Authorities in Texas opened a separate investigation into the flights in September.
.@USTreasury responded to my letter, confirming that it will investigate @GovRonDeSantis' use of Covid relief funds to cruelly transport immigrants from Texas to Martha's Vineyard under false pretenses and without any consideration for their personal dignity or basic needs. https://t.co/dJJllv9Piy— Ed Markey (@SenMarkey) October 12, 2022