Posted on June 7, 2023

Florida Confirms Arranging Migrant Flights to California

Nicholas Nehamas and Shawn Hubler, New York Times, June 6, 2023

After days of silence, officials in Florida confirmed on Tuesday that the administration of Gov. Ron DeSantis had orchestrated two recent charter flights that carried groups of migrants from New Mexico to Sacramento.

The flights had generated an immediate outcry from leaders in California, who promised to initiate criminal and civil investigations, saying that the migrants had been deceived into boarding the planes. They also sharply criticized Mr. DeSantis, a Republican presidential candidate. On Twitter, California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, suggested that “kidnapping charges” were warranted against those responsible for the flights, on Monday and last Friday.

In a statement released on Tuesday evening, Alecia Collins, the communications director for the Florida Division of Emergency Management, said that the migrants’ relocation to California had been “voluntary,” and that they had been taken to a nonprofit.


Tuesday evening’s statement was the first time that Mr. DeSantis’s administration had addressed the flights since they landed in California’s capital city. At a bill signing ceremony on Tuesday morning, the governor, unusually, did not take questions from reporters. The silence from Mr. DeSantis on a high-profile incident drawing national interest was uncharacteristic, especially given the pointed attacks against him by Mr. Newsom and others.


Roughly three dozen migrants have arrived in Sacramento on two charter flights since last Friday. The migrants, most of whom are from Venezuela, said they had been recruited for the flights outside a shelter in El Paso. Several said they were promised help finding work. They are now staying at motels in the Sacramento area, according to local nonprofits.


The migrants sent to Martha’s Vineyard have since filed a class-action lawsuit against Mr. DeSantis and other state officials, saying they had been falsely promised jobs and other assistance when they arrived.

Florida legislators have authorized $12 million for a state program to transport migrants around the country. Mr. DeSantis has made immigration a major theme of his presidential campaign, calling for the construction of a wall on the U.S. southern border and criticizing President Biden’s border policies.


On Monday, in the latest volley, Mr. Newsom called Mr. DeSantis “pathetic” while accusing him of sending the migrants to Sacramento. Mr. Bonta, the California attorney general, has said investigators are examining whether any laws were broken. {snip}

Also on Monday, a Texas county sheriff announced that he was recommending that prosecutors file criminal charges pertaining to the Martha’s Vineyard flights last September, though he said nothing about who should be charged.

Holding anyone civilly or criminally accountable for the flights may prove challenging, legal analysts said.

Ms. Collins, the Florida official, pointed out that cities with Democratic mayors have bused migrants to other parts of the country.

“Suddenly, when Florida sends illegal aliens to a sanctuary city, it’s false imprisonment and kidnapping,” she said in her statement. {snip}