Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has come under investigation for potentially orchestrating a flight that transported asylum-seekers from the Texas border to Sacramento, California, without their knowledge. The incident occurred as faith-based groups hurried to provide assistance, housing, and food for the approximately 20 migrants, who were between 21 and 30 years of age. On Monday alone, it was the second such flight. California’s Attorney General, Rob Bonta, cited Vertol Systems Co. as the charter company behind the flights, which were carried out under the auspices of an official document from Florida. The migrants received processing in Texas and were given court dates for their asylum cases, but they said that they were approached by two women with broken Spanish in El Paso. The women promised the asylum-seekers jobs and accompanied them to Deming, New Mexico, where two men joined them on a flight to Sacramento.
Initially, there was no indication from DeSantis’ office or any state officials in Florida that they were involved. DeSantis has been a sharp critic of President Joe Biden’s immigration policy and has emphasized Florida’s role in relocating migrants to Democratic-led states. Meanwhile, California Governor, Gavin Newsom, slammed DeSantis as a “small, pathetic man” and hinted at pursuing kidnapping charges. In a show of support, groups led by Mayor Darrell Steinberg held a conference on Tuesday to provide assistance to the migrants who arrived by air.
Notably, DeSantis has made migrant relocation a priority of his political agenda. He has used the state’s legislative process to direct millions of dollars to it and worked alongside various contractors to arrange flights. The moves come even as the Republican governors of Arizona and Texas have previously bussed thousands of migrants to other states, including New York, Washington D.C., and Chicago.
Expectedly, the situation has fueled political tensions between DeSantis and Newsom, who have taken opposing stances on many issues, including immigration and abortion. The incident has also put Florida’s allegedly extensive role in immigrant relocation under a microscope, with the governor attracting criticism and possible legal action.