California investigating DeSantis involvement in airlifting asylum seekers from Texas to Sacramento

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Officials were investigating Tuesday whether Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was behind a flight that picked up asylum seekers at the Texas border and transported them — apparently unbeknownst to them – to the Californian capital, even as religious. groups rushed to find them accommodation and food.

About 20 people between the ages of 21 and 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 groups that have helped migrants have scheduled a press conference Tuesday morning.

Meanwhile, California Governor Gavin Newsom slammed DeSantis as a “pathetic little man” and suggested the state could pursue kidnapping charges.

DeSantis and other Florida state officials were mom, as they initially were last year when they ferried 49 Venezuelan migrants to the upscale Massachusetts enclave of Martha’s Vineyard, luring them into 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 widely publicized Florida’s role in past cases where migrants have been transported to Democratic-run states.

He has made the migrant relocation program one of his top policy priorities, using the state’s legislative process to earmark millions of dollars for it and working with multiple contractors to carry out the thefts. Vertol Systems Co., which was paid by Florida to fly migrants to Martha’s Vineyard, appeared to be behind the flights to Sacramento last Monday and Friday, Bonta said, adding that the migrants were carrying “an official document from the ‘State of Florida’. that mentions the company. The company did not respond to an email seeking comment.

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

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

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

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

Bonta, who met some of the migrants who arrived on Friday, said they told him they were approached by two women who spoke broken Spanish and promised them jobs. The women traveled with them overland 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, act with cruelty, inhumanity and moral bankruptcy and be petty and small and hurtful and harmful to these vulnerable asylum seekers is boiling hot. “Bonta said in an interview on Monday.

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

As the migrants arrived in California on Monday, the Texas Sheriff’s Office announced that it had recommended criminal prosecution for the two flights to Martha’s Vineyard last year.

Johnny Garcia, spokesman for the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office, said the office is not currently naming suspects. It’s unclear whether the local district attorney will pursue the charges, which include misdemeanor and felony counts of unlawful duress, according to the sheriff’s office.

The office of Democratic New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham did not say why the immigrants were taken from Texas to New Mexico before being flown to California.

“Governor Lujan Grisham underscores, once again, the urgent need for comprehensive and thoughtful federal immigration reform, anchored in a humanitarian response that keeps border communities in mind,” the door-keeper said Monday. word of the Governor, Caroline Sweeney.

Last year, DeSantis asked Republican lawmakers in Florida to create a program in his office dedicated to migrant resettlements. He clarified that the state could transport migrants from anywhere in the country. The law was designed to circumvent questions about the legality of carrying people on a flight from Texas.

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

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


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