2nd plane carrying immigrants lands in Sacramento; California officials say they arranged the trip to Florida

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Another plane carrying migrants arrived in Sacramento on Monday, marking the second flight in recent days that California officials allege was coordinated by Florida.

The flight carrying about 20 migrants arrived on Monday, following the arrival of 16 migrants from Colombia and Venezuela on Friday who were taken from Texas to New Mexico before being put on a chartered flight to the California capital. It’s unclear which countries the recent visitors are from, but their travel appears to have been arranged by the same agency, said Tara Gallegos, a spokeswoman for California Attorney General Rob Ponta.

Bonda says they are investigating whether any crimes were committed.

The first group of immigrants dropped off at the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church in Sacramento.

They carried documents saying they were transported through a program run by Florida’s Division of Emergency Management and carried out by contractor Verdol Systems Co., Gallegos. He said he could not share the documents as they were part of an active investigation.

Spokesmen for Florida’s Division of Emergency Management and Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis would not confirm Florida’s involvement, and Verdol Systems did not respond to requests for comment.

“As we continue to gather evidence, I want to make this very clear: State-sanctioned trafficking is not a public policy choice, it is immoral and abhorrent,” Bonda said in a statement.

Immigrants entered the United States through Texas. Eddie Carmona, campaign director for PICO California, a faith-based group that helps immigrants, said U.S. immigration officials had already vetted the young women and men and given them court dates for their asylum cases when “persons representing a private contractor” approached them outside. A migrant center in El Paso, Texas helped them find work and escort them to their final destinations.

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“They were lied to and deliberately deceived,” Carmona said, adding that the migrants did not know where they were after being dropped off in Sacramento. He said there were court dates in cities across the country, not just in Texas, and none of them ended up in California.

Asylum seekers can change the venue of their court appearance, but many are reluctant to try, preferring instead to stick with a fixed date, at least for their initial appearance. They think it’s a guarantee, even if it’s very inconvenient.

DeSantis, who is seeking the Republican nomination for president, has been a vocal critic of federal immigration policy under President Joe Biden and has heavily publicized Florida’s role in past cases of migrants being transported to Democratic-led states.

He has made the migrant resettlement program one of his signature political priorities.

Paid by Florida Vertol Systems Last year $1.56 million was awarded for immigrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, and for a second possible flight to Delaware. The Republican governors of Texas and Arizona have previously bused thousands of immigrants to New York, Chicago and Washington DC, but the rare charter flights are an escalation in tactics.

Before flying from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard last year, DeSantis signed a Republican-backed budget that allocated $12 million to relocate people from Florida to other places in the country illegally.

When questions arose about the legality of the Martha’s Vineyard standoff, which originated in Texas, not Florida, and was an apparent violation of budget language, DeSantis noted that Republican legislators created a program in his office dedicated to immigrant relocations that could transport immigrants out of the state. Places all over the country.

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DeSantis’ management has selected three vendors to transport the migrants.

The flight, if proven to have been orchestrated by Florida, would intensify a long-running political feud between DeSantis and Gavin Newsom, the Democratic governor of California. The two have offered conflicting views on immigration, abortion and other issues.

Newsom said in a statement that he also met with newly arrived immigrants and that officials are working to ensure they are “treated with respect and dignity” through the process.

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg issued a very forceful statement: “Those behind this need to answer the following: Is there anything worse than using scared people to score cheap political points?” ___

Associated Press writer Anthony Isaquier of Tallahassee, Fla., contributed.

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Find more AP coverage of immigration: https://apnews.com/hub/immigration

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