California investigators suspect Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis of planning the flight carrying 16 immigrants who were “dumped” outside a 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 immigrants arrived in Sacramento, California, over the weekend.

  • The state 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 left at a Catholic church in Sacramento, including possible links to the administration of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The migrants were carrying documents showing that Florida’s division of emergencies, as well as contractor Vertol Systems Company, managed the trip, the New York Times reported.

The migrants, from Colombia and Venezuela, had already received court dates for their asylum cases and were approached by a private contractor in El Paso, Texas, according to the Associated Press. The contractor said he would help transport the migrants to their final destination and help them find jobs and housing.

They first made a stopover in New Mexico before arriving in Sacramento late Friday and being “abandoned at the door of a local church without warning,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement.

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

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

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Monday called the practice of relocating immigrants “dangerous and unacceptable.”

“They are putting a lot of pressure on these state and local areas,” he told a news conference.

Reached by phone, a representative for the Florida Department of Emergency Management acknowledged that the agency had not yet issued a statement about the flight and asked Insider to email questions. The governor’s office did not immediately respond to questions about whether he planned the flights.

DeSantis previously acknowledged that his administration orchestrated another plane carrying immigrants from San Antonio, Texas, to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. He frequently boasts of these actions in speeches, including on the 2024 presidential election campaign.

In recent weeks, DeSantis has expanded restrictions on undocumented workers in Florida and allocated $12 million for immigrant resettlement programs. DeSantis has framed the policies as a direct response to President Joe Biden’s immigration policies, saying the president turned a “blind eye” to the issue.

But Democrats were quick to condemn the latest stunt, which the DeSantis administration had not yet confirmed as of Monday afternoon. Florida Democratic Party Chair Nikki Fried called the flight “another example of Ron’s draconian immigration policies” and called the actions “borderline human smuggling.”

“Everyone involved should be ashamed of themselves,” he said. “Vulnerable people are being coerced and tricked into participating in these programs without knowing that there is no plan for how to care for them. It is cruel and inhumane.”

DeSantis vowed that if elected president, he would resume the US-Mexico border wall and reinstate the “remain in Mexico” policy, which requires migrants to wait on the other side of the border until their asylum cases are heard.

DeSantis is the main challenger for the 2024 nomination of President Donald Trump, whose hardline anti-immigration rhetoric and actions inflamed his base and led to numerous lawsuits and backlash from the public.

If DeSantis is behind the latest round of flights, it would show that 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 issues, 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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