(Reuters) – California’s attorney general is investigating whether the Florida state government played a role in sending more than a dozen migrants to the California capital of Sacramento without notice.
Representatives for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Sunday.
Last year, DeSantis arranged to ferry dozens of migrants to the vacation island of Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts as part of a campaign by Republican governors of Texas and Florida to shift some of the burden of immigration to Democratic-run cities further north.
Migrant buses and planes have heightened partisan tension over immigration as DeSantis pursues the 2024 Republican nomination for president.
Sixteen asylum seekers from Venezuela and Colombia were dropped off at the doorstep of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sacramento on Friday, the Los Angeles Times reported, citing officials.
They were first taken by bus from Texas to New Mexico and then flown by private jet to Sacramento, California Governor Gavin Newsom said in a statement released Saturday.
Attorney General Rob Bonta, also a Democrat, said in a separate statement that California is investigating the criminal or civil liability of those who staged the theft.
Initial discoveries revealed that the migrants had documents “supposed to be from the Florida state government”, Bonta said.
“As we continue to collect evidence, I want to say it very clearly: state-sanctioned kidnapping is not a public policy choice, it is immoral and disgusting,” Bonta said, adding that California would welcome migrants “with open arms”.
In response to the Martha’s Vineyard incident, DeSantis told supporters last year that “there could be more robberies, there could be buses.”
Florida paid $615,000 to an airline under an “unauthorized alien relocation program,” according to Florida state data.
(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Christopher Cushing)