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Florida prepares next Haiti rescue flight as religious leaders call for migrant help

'In the face of adversity, we cannot turn our backs on those in need,' says Rev. Dr. Latricia Scriven, St. Paul’s United Methodist pastor
Posted at 7:52 PM, Mar 26, 2024

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida is expecting another of its state-backed rescue flights from Haiti -- likely arriving later Tuesday evening.

The time and location were not yet available. Florida's Division of Emergency Management said the details were "fluid."

The state has already helped return 62 Americans home, most of them Floridians. The latest was a flight of 14 coming into Orlando overnight Monday.

A Missionary Flights International plane departs Treasure Coast International Airport on March 21, 2024 to bring relief supplies to Haiti.jpg

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Officials, at the governor's request, have also continued to boost resources around Florida's coast, working to interdict Haitian migrants fleeing the beleaguered country.

Critics consider the effort hypocritical. A coalition of religious leaders in the state capital held a prayer vigil Tuesday morning, seeking to press Florida to ease its restrictions.

"We’re asking Gov. DeSantis, do not politicize this crisis," Rev. Dr. RB Holmes, a Bethel Missionary Baptist Church pastor in Tallahassee, said.

Holmes and others urged Gov. Ron DeSantis and the federal government to do more to help, and not halt, Haitians seeking safe harbor in the Sunshine State. There hasn't been a major influx of refugees so far but fears of a coming surge remain.

"In the face of adversity, we cannot turn our backs on those in need," Rev. Dr. Latricia Scriven, St. Paul’s United Methodist pastor in Tallahassee, said. "We cannot turn our backs on our sisters and brothers.”

The comments echo concerns from state Sen. Shevrin Jones, D-Miami Gardens, whose district likely has the largest population of Haitians in Florida. In a recent letter, Jones asked DeSantis to "find sustainable and humane solutions for Haitian migrants arriving in Florida."

"At least, look at what is the most compassionate, humane thing that we can do in our power to help — knowing that we can't welcome them all," Jones said. "But is there something that we could do to assist the families — who have family members who are over there who are looking to get out of Haiti?"

Despite the criticism, Florida’s governor and state officials have remained committed to their strategy. Florida Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie said last week the efforts were focused on protecting the state and its residents from potential harm.

"You can look at any newscast every hour, every evening, and there's somebody that's been violated by an unauthorized, documented alien in the United States, and then some that are not documented," Guthrie said. "So, that's the reason we're pouring money into this."

Just how much money isn't yet clear. Previous efforts to relocate migrants at the southern border to sanctuary destinations across the country cost Florida taxpayers millions of dollars. Guthrie said a new migrant relocation flight, which might include Haitians, is under consideration. That's only if the state can find enough volunteers to agree to participate.
 
“At the end of the day, the No. 1 role of government is to keep people safe and secure," Guthrie said. "And that's why we're doing that."