Officials are investigating whether Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis is behind a flight that picked up asylum-seekers on the Texas border and transported them to the capital of California.
Around 20 people, ranging between 21 to 30 years old, were flown by private jet to Sacramento Monday, according to California Attorney General Rob Bonta. It was the second flight in four days.
Darrell Steinberg, Mayor of Sacramento, and faith-based groups assisting the migrants held a news conference about the situation.
In the meantime, Democrat Governor of California Gavin Newsom lashed out at DeSantis on Twitter and called him a “small, pathetic man,”… suggesting that his state could pursue kidnapping charges.
Gov. DeSantis and other officials from Florida had remained silent as they initially were last year when they transported 49 Venezuelan migrants to the Massachusetts island of Martha’s Vineyard by sending them by private jets from a shelter in San Antonio.
The governor did not mention the flights during a bill-signing ceremony on Tuesday, and his administration has not provided any information on the flights.
DeSantis is seeking the GOP nomination for the presidency and has fiercely criticized the federal immigration policy under President Joe Biden.
GOP governors have previously sent migrants to other states, cities
The Republican governors of Arizona and Texas have previously sent thousands of migrants on buses to Chicago, Washington, D.C., and New York. Still, the charter flights by Gov. DeSantis mark an escalation in tactics. The two groups sent to Sacramento never went through Florida. They were instead approached in El Paso, Texas, by people with paperwork liked to Florida, sent to New Mexico, then put on private flights to California’s capital, said California advocates and officials.
Attorney General Bonta met with some migrants who arrived on Friday and said they told him they were approached by two Spanish-speaking women who promised them jobs. The women traveled with them by land from El Paso to Deming, New Mexico, where two men then met and accompanied them on a flight to Sacramento. Bonta said the same men were on the flight Monday.
“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,” said Bonta during a Monday interview.
As the migrants arrived Monday in California, a sheriff’s office in Texas announced it had recommended criminal charges over the two flights to Martha’s Vineyard last year.
Spokesman for the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office, Johnny Garcia, said the office is not naming suspects currently. It is unclear whether the local district attorney will pursue the charges, which include felony and misdemeanor counts of unlawful restraint, according to the sheriff’s office.
Last year, Governor DeSantis directed GOP lawmakers in Florida to create a program to relocate migrants. It specified that the state could transport migrants from locations anywhere in the country. The law was designed to get around the legalities of transporting people on a flight that originated in Texas.
Florida’s alleged role in the arrival of the two groups in Sacramento will likely intensify the political feud between Newsom and DeSantis, who have opposing visions on abortion, immigration, and many other issues.