DeSantis adminstration flies Americans out of Haiti to Sanford

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Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday announced the first of what he said would be many flights evacuating Floridians and other Americans out of Haiti amid the country’s spiral into violence.

DeSantis spoke at the Orlando Sanford International Airport shortly before the first chartered flight was scheduled to land Wednesday night. He left before its arrival.

DeSantis and state Division of Emergency Management director Kevin Guthrie said 14 people were on the flight, including some children.

“We’re committed to rescuing Floridians from a bad situation,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis and Guthrie said 360 Floridians and 501 other U.S. citizens had requested the state’s help in being evacuated so far.

The state conducted similar flights out of Israel after the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks, for which charter company ARS Global was paid $18.5 million by the state. But DeSantis said there was far less coordination with the Haitian government than with Israel’s.

“So it’s a more challenging situation,” he said. “But there’s been people that have been doing a lot of great work, and in really difficult circumstances, to be able to bring people to safety.”

Guthrie said the state sent its Orlando Regional Coordinator to the Haitian Consulate in Orlando “to knock on the door and try to get some help. … We’re just running into problem after problem getting people vetted.”

Guthrie said that for the last five days, “I’ve had a room of about 25 people working … with our federal government, State Department, [Bureau of] Consular Affairs.”

But DeSantis and Guthrie criticized the U.S. State Department’s requirement that people evacuated on their chartered planes reimburse the federal government.

Orlando resident Abson Louis flew out of Haiti on the first such flight Sunday.

Orlando man escapes chaos of Haiti, hopes for family’s safety

“I think the last thing these people want is to get stuck with a bill when they’re just basically running for their lives,” DeSantis said.

As for Haitians themselves, however, DeSantis said anyone attempting to arrive in Florida by boat would be caught and turned back.

“People should just understand that the last thing you want to do is get into a boat and go over very dangerous waters just to get intercepted and sent back to where you came from,” he said. “It’s just not worth it.”

DeSantis told a conservative podcaster on Tuesday that for Haitians who land in Florida, “their next stop very well may be Martha’s Vineyard,” a reference to the controversial migrant flight program funded by the state that has enticed migrants onto planes bound for Democratic states and abandoned them there.

Earlier this week, Louis told the Orlando Sentinel that DeSantis should allow refugees into Florida and not send them back to the war zone.

“I think a lot of people want the same opportunity to come here out of the chaos,” he said.

Staff photographer Stephen Dowell contributed to this report.