California investigators suspect Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis planned the flight carrying 16 migrants who were 'dumped' outside Sacramento church

Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom of California criticized the policies of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, in an interview with Insider.
Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom of California criticized the policies of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, in an interview with Insider.Justin Sullivan/Getty Images and Wilfredo Lee/AP Photo
  • Sixteen migrants arrived in Sacramento, California, over the weekend.

  • The state's attorney general is investigating possible ties to Florida and Gov. Ron DeSantis.

  • California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, has frequently criticized DeSantis.

California's attorney general is investigating the mysterious arrival of 16 migrants dropped off at a Catholic church in Sacramento, including possible ties to the Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis administration.

The migrants carried paperwork that showed Florida's emergency division, as well as contractor Vertol Systems Company, administered the travel, the New York Times reported.

The migrants, from Colombia and Venezuela, had already received a court date for their asylum cases and were approached by a private contractor in El Paso, Texas, according to the Associated Press. The contractor said they'd help the migrants with transportation to their final destination, and to help them secure jobs and shelter.

They'd first had a layover in New Mexico before arriving in Sacramento on Friday evening and being "dumped on the doorstep of a local church without any advance warning," California Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement.

Newsom said his office was working to help migrants get to their intended destination and would ensure people were treated "with respect and dignity." The California Department of Justice is also investigating whether those responsible for the flights broke any laws, such as kidnapping.

"State-sanctioned kidnapping is not a public policy choice, it is immoral and disgusting," California Attorney General Rob Bonta said in a statement. Speaking to CNN on Sunday, he accused DeSantis of demonstrating "pettiness, lack of substance," as well as "xenophobia," "discrimination and racism."

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Monday called the practice of relocating migrants "dangerous and unacceptable."

"You're putting a lot of pressure on these state and local areas," she said in a press conference.

Reached by phone, a representative for Florida's Department of Emergency Management acknowledged that the agency had not yet put out a statement about the flight and requested Insider send questions over email. The governor's office didn't immediately respond to questions about whether it planned the flights.

DeSantis previously acknowledged his administration orchestrated another plane carrying migrants from San Antonio, Texas, to Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts. He frequently boasts about these actions in speeches, including on the 2024 presidential campaign trail.

In recent weeks DeSantis expanded restrictions on undocumented workers in Florida and allocated $12 million toward migrant relocation programs. DeSantis has framed the policies as a direct response to President Joe Biden's immigration policies, saying that the president turned a "blind eye" to the issue.

But Democrats were quick to condemn the latest stunt, which the DeSantis administration still hadn't confirmed as of Monday afternoon. Florida Democratic Party Chair Nikki Fried said the flight was "another example of Ron's draconian immigration policies" and called the actions "borderline human trafficking.

"Everyone involved should be ashamed of themselves," she said. "Vulnerable people are being coerced and deceived into these programs without knowing there's no plan on how to care for them. It's cruel and inhumane."

DeSantis has promised that if elected president he would resume the border wall between the US and Mexico and reinstitute the "remain in Mexico" policy, which requires migrants to wait across the border until their asylum cases can be heard.

DeSantis is the top 2024 nomination rival to President Donald Trump, whose hard-line, anti-immigration rhetoric and actions whipped up his base and led to numerous lawsuits and public backlash.

If DeSantis is behind the latest round of flights, it would show he was taking direct aim at Newsom, who has criticized DeSantis' policies.

In an interview with Insider in April, Newsom called DeSantis' actions on numerous topics, including immigration, "performative" and "very destructive." DeSantis is scheduled to go to Sacramento for a fundraiser on June 19, according to the Sacramento Bee.

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