California Investigating if DeSantis Involved in Flying Asylum-Seekers From Texas to Sacramento

June 6, 2023by Trân Nguyễn And Olga R. Rodriguez, Associated Press
California Investigating if DeSantis Involved in Flying Asylum-Seekers From Texas to Sacramento
The offices of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sacramento are seen in Sacramento, Calif., Monday, June 5, 2023. (AP Photo/Tran Nguyen)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Officials were investigating Tuesday whether Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis was behind a flight that picked up asylum-seekers on the Texas border and flew them — apparently without their knowledge — to California’s capital, even as faith-based groups scrambled to find housing and food for them.

About 20 people ranging in age from 21 to 30 were flown by private jet to Sacramento on Monday, California Attorney General Rob Bonta said. It was the second such flight in four days.

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and faith-based groups who have been assisting the migrants scheduled a news conference Tuesday morning.

Meanwhile, California Gov. Gavin Newsom lashed out at DeSantis as a “small, pathetic man” and suggested the state could pursue kidnapping charges.

DeSantis and other Florida state officials were mum, as they were initially last year when they flew 49 Venezuelan migrants to the upscale Massachusetts enclave of Martha’s Vineyard, luring them onto private jets from a shelter in San Antonio.

DeSantis, who is seeking the Republican nomination to run for president, has been a fierce critic of federal immigration policy under President Joe Biden and has heavily publicized Florida’s role in past instances in which migrants were transported to Democratic-led states.

He has made the migrant relocation program one of his signature political priorities, using the state legislative process to direct millions of dollars to it and working with multiple contractors to carry out the flights. Vertol Systems Co., which was paid by Florida to fly migrants to Martha’s Vineyard, appears to be behind the flights to Sacramento on Monday and last Friday, Bonta said, adding that the migrants were carrying “an official document from the state of Florida” that mentions the company. The company didn’t respond to an email seeking comment.

Altogether, more than three dozen migrants arrived in Sacramento on flights last Friday and on Monday. Most are from Colombia and Venezuela. California had not been their intended destination and shelters and aid workers were taken by surprise, authorities said.

Friday’s group was dropped off at the Roman Catholic Church diocese’s headquarters in Sacramento. U.S. immigration officials had already processed them in Texas and given them court dates for their asylum cases, and none had planned to arrive in California, said Eddie Carmona, campaign director at PICO California, a faith-based group helping the migrants in Sacramento.

Asylum seekers can change the location of their court appearances, but many are reluctant to try and instead prefer sticking with a firm date, at least for their initial appearances. They figure it is a guarantee, even if horribly inconvenient.

The Republican governors of Texas and Arizona have previously sent thousands of migrants on buses to New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C., but the rare charter flights by DeSantis mark an escalation in tactics. The two groups sent to Sacramento never went through Florida. Instead, they were approached in El Paso by people with Florida-linked paperwork, sent to New Mexico, then put on private flights to California’s capital, California officials and advocates said.

Bonta, who met with some of the migrants who arrived Friday, said they told him they were approached by two women who spoke broken Spanish and promised them jobs. The women traveled with them by land from El Paso to Deming, New Mexico, where two men then accompanied them on the flight to Sacramento. The same men were on the flight Monday, Bonta said.

“To see leaders and governments of other states and the state of Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis, acting with cruelty and inhumanity and moral bankruptcy and being petty and small and hurtful and harmful to those vulnerable asylum seekers is blood-boiling,” Bonta said in a Monday interview.

Some of the migrants who arrived Friday told Bonta they met on their nearly three-month journey to the United States and decided to stick together to keep each other safe as they slept on the streets in several countries, he said.

As the migrants arrived in California Monday, a Texas sheriff’s office announced it has recommended criminal charges over the two flights to Martha’s Vineyard last year.

Johnny Garcia, a spokesman for the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office, said that at this time the office is not naming suspects. It’s not clear whether the local district attorney will pursue the charges, which include misdemeanor and felony counts of unlawful restraint, according to the sheriff’s office.

The office of New Mexico Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham had no specifics as to why the immigrants were taken from Texas to New Mexico before being flown to California.

“Gov. Lujan Grisham stresses, yet again, the urgent need for comprehensive, thoughtful federal immigration reform which is rooted in a humanitarian response that keeps border communities in mind,” the governor’s spokesperson, Caroline Sweeney, said Monday.

Last year, DeSantis directed Republican lawmakers in Florida to create a program in his office dedicated to migrant relocations. It specified that the state could transport migrants from locations anywhere in the country. The law was designed to get around questions about the legality of transporting people on a flight that originated in Texas.

Florida’s alleged role in the arrival of the two groups in Sacramento is sure to escalate the political feud between DeSantis and Newsom, who have offered conflicting visions on immigration, abortion and a host of other issues. ___

Rodriguez reported from San Francisco. Associated Press writers Anthony Izaguirre in Tallahassee, Fla., Paul J. Weber in Austin, Texas, Susan Montoya Bryan in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Elliot Spagat in San Diego contributed.

 

A+
a-

In The News

Health

Voting

Immigration

June 19, 2024
by Anna Claire Miller
New Protections Unveiled for Undocumented Spouses and Their Kids

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced his administration will offer potential citizenship to any  immigrant without legal status... Read More

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced his administration will offer potential citizenship to any  immigrant without legal status who has lived in the country for 10 years and been married to a U.S. citizen for an extended period of time. This new policy could... Read More

June 4, 2024
by Dan McCue
Biden Signs Executive Order Dramatically Limiting Asylum at Southern Border

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Tuesday placed significant new restrictions on migrants seeking asylum at the U.S. border with... Read More

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Tuesday placed significant new restrictions on migrants seeking asylum at the U.S. border with Mexico, announcing that consideration of requests will temporarily cease once the number of encounters tops 2,500 between official ports of entry. The surge in the number... Read More

May 3, 2024
by Dan McCue
White House Expands Health Care Coverage to DACA Recipients

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration on Friday expanded access to Affordable Care Act coverage to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals... Read More

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration on Friday expanded access to Affordable Care Act coverage to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients. Starting in November, DACA recipients — individuals who were brought into the U.S. illegally as children by a parent or other adult, known as “Dreamers”... Read More

Trump Called This Visa 'Very Bad' for Americans. Truth Social Applied for One

MIAMI (AP) — The social media company founded by former President Donald Trump applied for a business visa program that he sought to... Read More

MIAMI (AP) — The social media company founded by former President Donald Trump applied for a business visa program that he sought to restrict during his administration and which many of his allies want him to curtail in a potential second term. Trump Media & Technology Group, the company behind... Read More

Many Americans Say Immigrants Contribute to Economy but There's Worry Over Risks, AP-NORC Poll Finds

WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans are more worried about legal immigrants committing crimes in the U.S. than they were a few... Read More

WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans are more worried about legal immigrants committing crimes in the U.S. than they were a few years ago, a change driven largely by increased concern among Republicans, while Democrats continue to see a broad range of benefits from immigration, a new poll... Read More

March 19, 2024
by Dan McCue
Supreme Court Gives Texas Green Light to Deport Illegal Immigrants

WASHINGTON — A divided Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed Texas to begin enforcing a state law that effectively allows officials... Read More

WASHINGTON — A divided Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed Texas to begin enforcing a state law that effectively allows officials to deport undocumented immigrants, despite objections from the Biden administration, which argued only the federal government has authority over immigration issues. In an unsigned order, the... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top