For days, Florida’s role in a recent round of controversial migrant flights remained a mystery — until Tuesday, when state officials said two flights that transported migrants from Texas to California were “voluntary” relocations.
The flights, which took place Friday and Monday, brought South American migrants from El Paso to Sacramento. Confirmation that the flights originated from Florida came from the state Division of Emergency Management.
Division spokeswoman Alecia Collins pointed to a video posted on the social-media site Rumble that showed images of people filling out forms, listening to upbeat music in a stretch vehicle, walking across an airport tarmac and celebrating their arrival in California.
“Through verbal and written consent, these volunteers indicated they wanted to go to California,” a news release from the division said. “A contractor was present and ensured they made it safely to a 3rd-party NGO (non-governmental organization). The specific NGO, Catholic Charities, is used and funded by the federal government.”
The flights followed similar actions by Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration in September, when 49 migrants were flown from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.
Even before Florida had taken credit for the latest flights, California Gov. Gavin Newsom attacked DeSantis as a “small, pathetic man.” Newsom, a Democrat, raised the possibility of kidnapping charges as he and California Attorney General Rob Bonta questioned the legality of the flights.
Newsom in a news release Saturday said efforts were underway to ensure that migrants “dumped on the doorstep” of a Sacramento church are “treated with respect and dignity.” He also said the California Department of Justice was investigating who paid for the trip and “whether the individuals orchestrating this trip misled anyone with false promises or have violated any criminal laws, including kidnapping.”
DeSantis broke his silence on the flights during an immigration “roundtable” in Arizona on Wednesday. The governor described the use of Florida tax dollars to pay for the migrant flights as helping Texas combat a border crisis, and called for states to be “more aggressive” in immigration enforcement.
“We have an ability to do things, like support police and help out Texas, because we have a good managed state,” DeSantis said during an event in Sierra Vista, Ariz., that focused on his opposition to Biden administration immigration policies.
DeSantis delivered the comments during his first trip to the U.S. southwest border since announcing his candidacy for president. He cited $24 million earmarked by the Legislature in the last two years aimed at funding similar migrant flights.
“This (money for migrant flights) is something that’s been in the budget now for, I think, for two years,” DeSantis said. “If a sheriff asked for our support in Texas, we do this as an American problem. We don’t do it just as a Texas problem, as we think we’re all in this together.”
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