Boston, Mass., Jun 5, 2023 / 15:00 pm (CNA).
California’s governor and attorney general are accusing the state of Florida of “kidnapping” a group of 16 South American migrants in Texas, flying them to Sacramento, and dropping them off in front of the Diocese of Sacramento’s headquarters.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta said the migrants were brought by private plane and had “no prior arrangement in place.”
The news comes amid a heated national debate over border security and immigration as hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants, many of whom are unaccompanied children, have crossed America’s southern border in the past year alone.
It’s unclear if the migrants, who are reportedly from Colombia and Venezuela, are asylum seekers. CNA asked California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office on Monday but did not immediately receive a response.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office has not responded to CNA’s inquiry about the accusation.
Bonta said in a Saturday statement that the 16 migrants “were in possession of documentation purporting to be from the government of the state of Florida.”
According to the Los Angeles Times, the migrants’ documentation says that the Florida Division of Emergency Management arranged the flight, Bonta told the outlet. The documents also say that the flight was a part of a Florida program to relocate migrants in Texas to other states, Bonta added.
Catholics and organizations partnered with the Diocese of Sacramento to offer services and resources to the migrants, according to Sacramento Bishop Jaime Soto.
“Within each of the 16 migrants transported to Sacramento on Friday we recognize the humble presence of Jesus, and we hear his call to stand by them,” Soto said.
DeSantis made headlines last year for a similar political maneuver in which his state sent two planes carrying migrant asylum seekers in Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, in what a spokesperson for the governor told Fox News Digital was “part of the state’s relocation program to transport illegal immigrants to sanctuary destinations.”
Massachusetts is not a sanctuary state — a term typically referring to a local government’s refusal to work with federal immigration enforcement officials to deport illegal immigrants — but it does have several municipalities branding themselves as sanctuaries for migrants, although Martha’s Vineyard is not one of them, according to the Boston Herald.
The Florida governor, who is now running for president of the United States, received both heated criticism and support from public figures and legislators at the time.
An activist organization called Lawyers for Civil Rights is leading a lawsuit on behalf of the Venezuelan migrants against the Republican governor for the Martha’s Vineyard move.
DeSantis is being sued in Massachusetts federal court for allegedly violating the migrants’ Fourth Amendment rights, 14th Amendment rights, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, according to The Hill.
A spokeswoman for DeSantis said at the time that the migrants were homeless and voluntarily accepted the flight to Martha’s Vineyard through a consent form, according to The Hill.
The case is still pending.
Although Massachusetts is not a sanctuary state, California is.
In a tweet on Monday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom called DeSantis a “small, pathetic man” adding “Kidnapping charges? Read the following.” Attached to the tweet is a photo of a California statute that includes a definition of kidnapping.
.@RonDeSantis you small, pathetic man.
This isn’t Martha’s Vineyard.
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) June 5, 2023
Newsom said in a statement on Saturday that he and Bonta met with the migrants in Sacramento and added that they were “transported from Texas to New Mexico before being flown by private chartered jet to Sacramento and dumped on the doorstep of a local church without any advance warning.”
The California governor said that he was working with local authorities to take care of the migrants and ensure that they “get to their intended destination as they pursue their immigration cases.”
Newsom said that he and the state’s Department of Justice are investigating who orchestrated the trip and whether the organizers broke any laws, “including kidnapping.”
Bonta said in a statement of his own that “state-sanctioned kidnapping is not a public policy choice, it is immoral and disgusting.”
Bishop Soto said that after the migrants were dropped off at the diocese, “The urgency to respond was heard by Catholics and people of goodwill.”
“We are thankful to our partner organizations who took up the holy work of hospitality, dedicating their time and resources to ensure that every migrant did not feel alone and abandoned,” he said.
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