UPDATED, 4:23 PM: An official with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration said that the state was behind the movement of migrants from Texas to California, actions that Gov. Gavin Newsom likened to kidnapping.
Alecia Collins, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Emergency Management, said in a statement, “Florida’s voluntary relocation is precisely that — voluntary. Through verbal and written consent, these volunteers indicated they wanted to go to California.” Collins also provided a video of the migrants en route to the state.
More from Deadline
About three dozen migrants were flown to Sacramento on two flights that arrived on Friday and Monday. California Attorney General Rob Bonta accused Florida of being behind the flights, noting the similarity of the incident to one last year, when DeSantis took credit for moving migrants to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.
Anthony York, spokesman for Newsom, said in response, “Using Florida taxpayer dollars to traffic migrants from Texas through New Mexico to California to try to get votes in Iowa and New Hampshire. Pathetic.”
Bonta has said that they are evaluating potential civil or criminal action. A representative for the interfaith coalition, PICO California, told the AP that the migrants were “lied to and intentionally deceived.”
In her statement, Collins said that the migrants “made it safely” to a third party NGO, Catholic Charities. “From left-leaning mayors in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, Colorado, the relocation of those illegally crossing the United States border is not new,” she said. “Suddenly, when Florida sends illegal aliens to a sanctuary city, it’s false imprisonment and kidnapping.”
PREVIOUSLY, Monday: California Governor Gavin Newsom attacked Florida Governor Ron DeSantis after a group of migrants were dropped off at a Sacramento church, likening the move to “kidnapping.”
Newsom posted a tweet on Monday in which he called DeSantis a “small, pathetic man” and linked to California’s statute against kidnapping.
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) June 5, 2023
California Attorney General Rob Bonta said in a statement that more than a dozen migrants were brought to Sacramento by private plane on Friday “with no prior arrangement or care in place.” He said that the state is investigating the incident and “evaluating potential criminal or civil action against those who transported or arranged for the transport of these vulnerable immigrants.”
Bonta added that the migrants were in possession of documentation “purporting to be from the government of the state of Florida.”
“While we continue to collect evidence, I want to say this very clearly: State-sanctioned kidnapping is not a public policy choice, it is immoral and disgusting.” He added that the state and Sacramento community will “welcome these individuals with open arms and provide them with the respect, compassion, and care they will need after such a harrowing experience.”
A spokesperson for DeSantis did not immediately return a request for comment.
Newsom compared the incident to one last year, in which dozens of migrant asylum seekers were sent on chartered plane from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard. DeSantis took credit for the transport, as his spokesperson said at the time that “states like Massachusetts, New York and California will better facilitate the care of these individuals who they have invited into our country by incentivizing illegal immigration through their designation as ‘sanctuary states.'”
Newsom’s spokesperson Anthony York elaborated on the governor’s tweet, saying that the administration “continues to work with the California Department of Justice as they investigate the circumstances behind these flights and will look to hold anyone criminally accountable for misleading, manipulating and transporting individuals under false pretenses. In California we work together to humanely welcome migrants, support our local communities and address the challenges of a broken immigration system with dignity and without stunts.”
The 16 migrants were transported from Texas and dropped off at the Catholic Diocese of Sacramento. The faith-based group Sacramento ACT said that the group was approached by a private contractor and promised jobs, per ABC News. They were bused to New Mexico and flown to Sacramento.
Bonta told ABC News that, based on his conversations with the migrants, “they were promised help finding jobs if they got on the plane, and after they got off the plane, rather than receiving any help finding jobs, as a was represented to them, they were dumped and deserted and left.”
Sacramento ACT said that a second group of migrants arrived on Monday and they are “working on intake in coordination with state and local agencies. At this time we have no further information to disclose.”
Best of Deadline