With both the State of California and Bexar County in Texas currently investigating the facts and legality of officials in Florida flying migrants from Texas to sanctuary states, the Globe takes a look into what California could possibly do about the practice.
While the Bexar County Sheriff currently has a criminal case filed only against last years’ Texas to Martha’s Vineyard migrant flights paid for by Florida, California Attorney General Rob Bonta has an active investigation in the two migrant flights to Sacramento that occurred earlier this week and last Friday.
The flight incidents
16 illegal immigrants in El Paso were driven to an airport in New Mexico, flown to Sacramento, then dropped off at a Sacramento Roman Catholic Diocese building. Attorney General Rob Bonta immediately set up an investigation, finding links between Florida and the flight contractor, who the state had previously used last year for migrant flights to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. A second migrant flight arrived on Monday, prompting Governor Gavin Newsom to call out Florida and Governor DeSantis in a tweet once definitive evidence was found, despite California being a sanctuary state, even threatening kidnapping charges against his Floridian rival.
.@RonDeSantis you small, pathetic man.
This isn't Martha's Vineyard.
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) June 5, 2023
With pressure mounting, both the Florida Division of Emergency Management and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis confirmed the state’s involvement with the flight on both Tuesday and Wednesday respectively. In a direct response to allegations of kidnapping, officials from Florida showed video proof that the migrants voluntarily agreed to go, and show them dancing and celebrating on the flights.
“Through verbal and written consent, these volunteers indicated they wanted to go to California,” said the Division of Emergency Management on Tuesday in a statement. “As you can see from this video, Florida’s voluntary relocation is precisely that — voluntary. State-sanctioned kidnapping is not a public policy choice, it is immoral and disgusting. From left-leaning mayors in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, Colorado, the relocation of those illegally crossing the United States border is not new. But suddenly, when Florida sends illegal aliens to a sanctuary city, it’s false imprisonment and kidnapping.”
Sacramento migrant flights investigation continues
However, late on Wednesday, Bonta fired back at the voluntary claims, saying that they are instead deceptions, with Florida officials lying to the migrants and the entire program not being voluntary at all. Bonta also noted that his investigation would continue, and that civil or criminal violations could lead to a lawsuit.
“I’m glad the state of Florida is accepting blame for what they’ve done,” said Bonta on Wednesday. “They have no choice but to — all the evidence pointed that way. It was obvious that it was them. They have a $10 to $12 million budget outlay to pay for this program.
“The state of Florida’s propaganda machine is in overdrive right now. Look at how many times they use the word ‘voluntary.’ Look at the title of the program. Its name is called the Voluntary Transportation Program. They really want everyone to think that it’s voluntary. They really, really do. And it’s very defensive, and they’re trying too hard, because they know they have a problem with the lack of a voluntary nature of what happened.”
“My office will investigate whether any civil or criminal violations were committed in transporting the migrants to California, focusing on whether the migrants were fully appraised of their circumstances. I think deception is a key part of what’s happened here. The lying to them, the false representations, the misrepresentations, the deceit and telling them that if they came to where these vehicles and this plane was traveling, they would help them find jobs, and then never lifting a finger to help them find jobs, but instead deserting and dumping them on the steps of Sacramento diocese and never having an intention to help find them jobs, but using it to lure them into the travel arrangement.”
Legal experts told the Globe on Thursday that, barring more flights into California, it all comes down to the investigation on whether or not this will be escalated.
“There’s not much anyone outside the Attorney General’s office who can do right now over this,” explained immigration lawyer Raul Calderon to the Globe on Thursday. “Perhaps Sacramento County authorities could raise something similar to what Bexar County in Texas did, and maybe some lawyers for the migrants could do something too. But if we’re talking a case with a lot of legal support, then it is on Bonta’s investigation.”
“The big question is over if this was all voluntary. Not about if current immigration policies work – that’s another discussion. Legally speaking, we need to know if they came on their own volition, if it was under false pretenses, and what laws, if any, Florida broke.”
“The curious thing is, after being really into it for a few days, both Governors on the opposite end of this have now checked out. DeSantis barely mentioned it when pressed, and Newsom had to face the fact that Florida got the better of him over the Sanctuary state status and is instead now focusing on his proposed gun amendment. It’s curious. DeSantis is worried now that there is a major lawsuit and investigation over the flights to Massachusetts and Sacramento, and Newsom wants to avoid this from harming him politically, so he brought on in another headline grabbing announcement as soon as possible to knock this out of the headlines.”
“In only a matter of a few days, both major players in this left it to people below them, despite the major national traction the story has been getting. No politician does that unless it is going to harm them more than help. So, yeah, a suit by California is very much possible in that it made DeSantis stop talking about it, but it may also not be successful now, in that Newsom veered off into something else in only a matter of hours. Every day, this flight incident is getting more and more complicated.”
More details on the investigation, including possible legal action, is expected to be announced by Bonta in the coming weeks.
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