California officials lashed out at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday and hinted at the start of a criminal investigation into the arrival of two migrant flights that crossed the southern border of the United States into Texas and were later sent to Sacramento, allegedly for Florida government orders.
The flight that arrived on Monday with about 20 migrants followed the arrival on Friday of another 16 migrants from Colombia and Venezuela who had been transferred by van from Texas to New Mexico and later placed on a chartered plane bound for a small airport. of the California capital, officials said. It appears to be the most recent instance of a Republican-ruled state sending migrants to a Democratic-controlled state.
The newly arrived migrants stayed at the airport for a couple of hours, where they were fed before being sent to a "religious institution," Sacramento County spokeswoman Kim Nava said. The spokeswoman clarified that she did not know the nationalities of the new arrivals or what their final destination was within the United States.
“Our county social workers are on the way and they are going to assess all of them, making sure they have the services and support they need,” Nava said.
The group's move appears to have been arranged by Vertol Systems Co., a Florida-based aviation company that the state government contracted to help transport migrants, said Tara Gallegos, a spokeswoman for California Attorney General Rob Bonta. The official said that she is investigating whether a crime was committed. Her office refused to share documents because they are part of an investigation.
Meanwhile, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, called DeSantis a “pathetic little man” on Twitter and hinted that California could file kidnapping charges against him. If the flights are proven to have been arranged by Florida, they could escalate a longstanding political conflict between the two governors, who have offered conflicting views on immigration and abortion, among various other issues.
Spokesmen for the Florida emergency management agency and DeSantis have not confirmed Florida's involvement, and Vertol Systems did not respond to requests for comment.
The first group of migrants was dropped off at the headquarters of the Catholic Diocese of Sacramento.
Referring to the first group that arrived in Sacramento over the weekend, Eddie Carmona, campaign manager for PICO California, a faith-based group that helps migrants, said US immigration authorities had already processed the women and The young men had been given court dates to review their asylum cases when “individuals representing a private contractor” accosted them outside a migrant care center in El Paso, Texas, offering to help them find work. and take them to their final destinations.
“They were intentionally lied to and deceived,” Carmona said, adding that the immigrants had no idea where they were after being abandoned in Sacramento. Carmona said they have court dates in cities across the country, and none of them were intended to end up in California.
Asylum seekers can change the location of their court appearances, but many refuse to try, preferring to stick to a set date, at least for their initial appearances. They think it's a guarantee, even if it's terribly inconvenient.
DeSantis, who is seeking the Republican nomination for president, has been a vocal critic of President Joe Biden's immigration policy and has heavily publicized Florida's role in previous situations where migrants have been sent to Democratic-ruled states.
He has made the migrant resettlement program one of his political priorities, using the state legislative process to allocate millions of dollars to that task.
Florida paid Vertol Systems $1.56 million last year to fly migrants from Texas to Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, and for a possible second flight to Delaware that never took place. Republican governors of Texas and Arizona previously sent thousands of migrants by bus to New York, Chicago and Washington, DC, but the charter flights represent an escalation of tactics.
Before the flight from Texas to Martha's Vineyard last year, DeSantis signed a Republican-backed budget that allocated $12 million to relocate migrants to other states.
When questions arose about the legality of the flight to Martha's Vineyard, because it originated in Texas and not Florida, in an apparent violation of budget language, DeSantis had Republican lawmakers create a program in his office dedicated to relocating immigrants and specify that the state can transport migrants from anywhere in the country. Vertol Systems Co. was one of three vendors the DeSantis administration selected to implement the program.