The top California official suggests the Florida governor is guilty of kidnapping after taking asylum seekers to the US state capital, Sacramento.
California Governor Gavin Newsom unleashed a scathing invective against his Florida counterpart and Republican presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis after two planes of undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers arrived in his state.
In a Monday tweet, Newsom called DeSantis a “pathetic little man,” implying that the Florida governor had orchestrated the flights. Newsom also linked his post to the California penal code definition of kidnapping, preceded by the comment, “Kidnapping charges?”
The tweet came shortly before a spokesman for California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced that a second plane carrying 20 immigrants had landed in the California capital, Sacramento.
The first had arrived in the state capital on Friday with 16 people on board. Bonta said those new arrivals were dropped off at the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sacramento.
“As we continue to collect evidence, I want to say this very clearly: State-sanctioned kidnapping is not a public policy option, it is immoral and disgusting,” Bonta said in a statement Saturday.
Bonta has indicated that he believes Florida officials arranged the flight, which transported South American immigrants and asylum seekers from Texas to California.
His spokeswoman, Tara Gallegos, said Monday that the second group of migrants appeared to have been transported by the same company contracted by Florida.
.@RonDeSantis pathetic little man.
This is not Martha’s Vineyard.
Please read the following. https://t.co/kvuxe8Fb6F pic.twitter.com/KyE1lJiIIo
—Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) June 5, 2023
That firm, Vertol Systems Company, had previously received $1.56 million from Florida last year to fly immigrants and asylum seekers from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, as well as for a possible second flight to Delaware that never took place.
Gallegos explained that documents on Friday’s flight of migrants indicated that they, too, were transported by Vertol as part of a program run by the Florida Division of Emergency Management. Many of the arrivals were from Colombia and Venezuela.
Eddie Carmona, campaign manager for the religious group PICO California, told The Associated Press news agency that the 16 arrivals had been processed by US immigration officials in Texas and given court dates for their asylum cases.
They were then approached by “individuals representing a private contractor” who promised to give them work and help them get to their final destination.
“They were intentionally lied to and deceived,” Carmona said, adding that the group was not told they were being taken to Sacramento and that none of the transferees were seeking to travel to California.
The indictment comes as several Republican governors continue to threaten to send immigrants to Democratic-led jurisdictions in the north, particularly as Title 42 of the public health order expired.
That order, which allowed border authorities to remove certain asylum seekers without processing their claims, ended May 11, and many observers expected its expiration to be followed by an increase in border crossings. However, an increase in crossings has not yet materialized.
Republican governors such as Greg Abbott of Texas and DeSantis of Florida had previously sent thousands of immigrants by bus to New York, Chicago and Washington, DC. Charter flights are considerably rarer.
For his part, DeSantis has regularly announced his state’s immigrant resettlement efforts and directed millions toward the project, with the help of the Republican-dominated Florida legislature.
DeSantis is seen as the main Republican challenger to former President Donald Trump in the upcoming presidential race, and has been an outspoken critic of Democratic President Joe Biden’s immigration policies.
On Monday, the White House intervened in the flights, and spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said the Biden administration was awaiting the results of the California investigation.
He also denounced “busing or flying migrants across the country without any coordination” with federal, state or local officials as “dangerous and unacceptable.”
“We will continue to be very, very clear about it,” he said. “It is dangerous and unacceptable because you are putting people’s lives at risk. And it’s dangerous and unacceptable because you’re actually putting a lot of pressure on these states and local areas.”