Florida confirms sending migrants to California

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida officials confirmed Tuesday that the DeSantis administration was responsible for sending two planes full of migrants from the Texas border to Sacramento to protest federal immigration policies.

As California leaders continue to claim the actions could amount to kidnapping or false imprisonment, Florida has responded to the claims by posting a video of some of the migrants signing documents, smiling on a plane and waving. while driving inside what looks like a limo or party bus.

Florida’s Division of Emergency Management, the state agency overseeing the resettlement program, said the program was voluntary because Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration remains at odds with President Joe Biden and President Joe Biden. other leading Democrats.

“From left-leaning mayors in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, Colorado, relocating those who cross the border illegally into the United States is nothing new,” wrote Alecia Collins, Florida’s director of communications. Division of Emergency Management, in a statement. “But suddenly when Florida sends illegal aliens to a sanctuary city, it’s fake imprisonment and kidnapping.”

The agency’s statement is Florida’s first public acknowledgment of migrant flights to California since the first landed in Sacramento on Friday, sparking a political firestorm from state Democrats led by Governor Gavin Newsom. . The DeSantis administration has been silent for several days, and the Republican governor, who frequently touts his policies as he campaigns for president in early voting states, did not mention the immigration plan during the signing a bill in Wildwood, Florida on Tuesday morning.

California, however, publicly shamed Florida for the flights even before Florida took credit for it. State officials say they are investigating the state for possible crimes such as kidnapping, false imprisonment or other violations based on deception, misrepresentation, lying or misrepresentation.

Florida’s assertion that the thefts were voluntary did not soften the Newsom administration’s tone, with spokesman Anthony York picking up on a tweet from Newsom on Tuesday saying the video was “another reminder” that DeSantis is “small and pathetic”.

“This is exploitative propaganda peddled by a politician who has shown there are no depths he will not sink to in his desperate efforts to score a political point,” York said in a written statement.

DeSantis and Newsom have long been political adversaries due to their differing stances on immigration, LGBTQ issues and gun safety, and the latest migrant relocations could be seen as political retaliation against the governor of California, who has consistently criticized Florida policies.

“We’re looking at a number of different legal theories, but first we need to gather all the facts, complete the interviews, pursue leads, and then match the law to the facts,” California Attorney General Rob Bonta said. said on Tuesday, speaking to journalist José Díaz-Balart.

Florida cited video of migrants traveling to California as evidence that the trips were voluntary. The Emergency Management Division said a contractor, likely Destin-based Vertol Systems, “safely” handed off the migrants to a third-party organization – Catholic Charities. The DeSantis administration has pointed fingers at other state and local leaders relocating migrants, including Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in Texas, Democratic El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser and Democratic New York City Mayor Eric Adams.

“Through verbal and written consent, these volunteers have indicated that they want to travel to California,” Collins wrote in the statement.

But California officials have previously cast doubt on Florida’s portrayal of migrant flights.

Bonta told media that the migrants were approached outside a migrant center in El Paso, Texas, where they were told in “broken Spanish” to board a plane under the false promise jobs and help. They received paperwork in English and Spanish, but apparently not all of them understood where they were going until they landed in Sacramento and not all signed the paperwork, according to the Miami Herald.

The people who organized the transportation of the migrants allegedly put them on a bus and dropped them off outside a Catholic church in Sacramento. Once they rang the doorbell, they left the migrants on the doorstep, never to be seen again, Bonta said.

A Sacramento-based nonprofit provided food and shelter to the 36 migrants, from Colombia, Venezuela and Guatemala. Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg condemned the decision to send the migrants to Sacramento, but said the city would continue to accept and care for newcomers.

“Go for it,” Steinberg said at a news conference on Monday. “You better believe we can handle it.”

The migrant flights are part of a controversial program in Florida that began last year when the state paid to send nearly 50 migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.

To that end, DeSantis has millions of dollars in state cash to transport more migrants who have never set foot in Florida. The state’s GOP-controlled legislature in 2022 gave DeSantis $12 million to run the migrant resettlement program and another $12 million this year in the legislature’s final immigration bill.

Gary Fineout and Lara Korte contributed to this report.

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