'Immoral and disgusting': California officials link DeSantis to migrant flights

Documents linked this relocation of the migrants to a controversial program managed by Florida’s Division of Emergency Management.

click to enlarge 'Immoral and disgusting': California officials link DeSantis to migrant flights
Photo by Dave Decker
California’s State Attorney General has called out Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, tying him to a flight of South American migrants who arrived in Sacramento on Friday.

“While this is still under investigation, we can confirm these individuals were in possession of documentation purporting to be from the government of the State of Florida,” California Attorney General Rob Bunta said in a statement Saturday. “While we continue to collect evidence, I want to say this very clearly: State-sanctioned kidnapping is not a public policy choice, it is immoral and disgusting.”

The Associated Press reports that 16 migrants from Colombia and Venezuela were dropped off a a church in Sacramento on Friday. According to state documents, the migrants entered the United States through Texas. They were transported to New Mexico and then flown by charter plane to California’s capital.

Documents linked this relocation of the migrants to a controversial program managed by Florida’s Division of Emergency Management. The same program, carried out by contractor Vertol Systems Co., was also linked to a $1.56 million political stunt last year, when the DeSantis administration flew migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard — contrary to the purpose of the taxpayer-funded program, before it was reformed through legislation this year.

That legislation, HB 5-B, was expected to help DeSantis fend off lawsuits over last year’s flight, and was organized in the height of his 2022 campaign to retain his seat in the Governor’s office.

Faith-based group Sacramento Area Congregations Together told CNN they’re assisting the migrants who were transported to California’s capital last week. Another faith-based group, PICO California, has also been assisting them as state officials investigate.

Eddie Carmona, campaign director at PICO California, told the Associated Press the migrants had already been processed by U.S. immigration officials and had been given court dates for their asylum cases before they were approached outside of an El Paso migrant center by “individuals representing a private contractor.”

“They were lied to and intentionally deceived,” Carmona added.

Nikki Fried, chair of the Florida Democratic Party, criticized DeSantis on Twitter for the apparent ties of the relocation to his administration.

“More political stunts and illegal activity from Florida’s Governor,” Fried (who challenged DeSantis as a Democratic candidate for governor last year) wrote in a Twitter post. “Wants to distract everyone from his disastrous immigration policies in Florida.”

An immigration bill targeting undocumented people and their families drew a couple hundred out to a protest in Orlando last week, and thousands more in at least five other cities statewide.

Among other things, that bill also allocated $12 million to Florida’s migrant relocation program.

“California and the Sacramento community will welcome these individuals with open arms,” Bonta continued in his statement. He added that they will “provide them with the respect, compassion, and care they will need after such a harrowing experience.”

This post first appeared at our sibling paper Orlando Weekly.

About The Author

McKenna Schueler

McKenna Schueler is a freelance journalist based in Tampa, Florida. She regularly writes about labor, politics, policing, and behavioral health. You can find her on Twitter at @SheCarriesOn and send news tips to [email protected].

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