Florida says it flew migrants to California as flights come under investigation

The administration of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday that it was behind recent flights that transported migrants from Texas to California. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI
The administration of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday that it was behind recent flights that transported migrants from Texas to California. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

June 7 (UPI) -- Florida has confirmed that it flew migrants to California where investigators are probing the flights to see if any laws were broken.

California officials and community religious leaders say 36 migrants were flown to Sacramento aboard two recent flights. The first flight landed around noon Friday with 16 adults from Venezuela and Colombia onboard. The second flight with 20 migrants onboard landed Monday.


The California Department of Justice has launched an investigation into the migrants' transportation, which local and state officials including Gov. Gavin Newsom say may have violated criminal laws, including kidnapping.

Though no credit was initially taken for chartering the planes, officials began pointing at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. At least some of the migrants were in possession of documentation purporting to be from Florida. DeSantis also charted flights that shipped migrants from Texas to Massachusetts' Martha's Vineyard in September.


In May, the Republican governor also signed into law Senate Bill 1718, immigration-related legislation that, among other things, gives him $12 million for his Unauthorized Alien Transport Program.

In response to the allegations that the migrants were involuntarily flown to California, a spokesperson with the Florida Division of Emergency Management issued a statement Tuesday to UPI rebuking the claims while pointing to a video it published on Rumble purporting to show that the migrants were voluntarily relocated from Texas.

"Through verbal and written consent, these volunteers indicated they wanted to go to California," the DEM spokesperson said in a statement, while acknowledging that Florida was behind the flights.

"A contractor was present and ensured they made it safely to a 3rd-party NGO. The specific NGO, Catholic Charities, is used and funded by the federal government," the spokesperson said.

The statement also listed several other governors, including Democrats, who bussed migrants to other cities.

"From left-leaning mayors in El Paso, Texas; and Denver, Colo.; the relocation of those illegally crossing the United States border is not new," the spokesperson said. "But suddenly, when Florida sends illegal aliens to a sanctuary city, it's false imprisonment and kidnapping."


Sacramento Area Congregations Together, which is supporting the migrants who were dropped off in the city, said in a statement Monday evening that those who arrived Friday had been processed as they entered the United States via Texas border and have pending court appearances. It offered no such information concerning the second group of migrants, with ACT stating it was working on their intake coordination with state and local agencies.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta told The Washington Post that all 36 migrants had spoken with investigators. They told the investigators that they were promised jobs. They also said they didn't know they were being taken to Sacramento until their arrival in the city.

Bonta said they were "dumped and deserted" and that some of them have immigration hearings as far away as New York City, Denver and Chicago.

"They were moved as political pawns," Bonta said.

Newsom, a Democrat, published the penal code relating to crimes of kidnapping in a post on Twitter and tagged DeSantis, whom he called a "small, pathetic man."

The second flight landed in California as a Texas county sheriff's office recommended that the Bexar County district attorney file several counts of unlawful restraint in connection to two flights charted by the DeSantis administration in September that sent 49 migrants from Texas to Martha's Vineyard.


Lawyers representing the migrants have said their clients were induced to board the planes under false pretenses, stating the migrants were promised work opportunities, schooling for their children and immigration assistance. The lawyers also said their clients were told they were going to Boston and were only informed that Martha's Vineyard was their final destination mid-flight.

DeSantis and other Republican governors have feuded with the Biden administration over the Democrat's immigration policies and have resorted to dramatic displays of bussing and flying migrants to so-called sanctuary cities in protest, attracting staunch criticism not only from Democratic lawmakers but from migrant and human rights advocates.

DeSantis had said that he paid for the flights to "insulate" Florida from the impacts of the federal government's immigration policies.

The Bexar County Sheriff's Office did not specify who the defendant or defendants may be.

DeSantis, who recently announced his candidacy for president, has yet to comment on either development.

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