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California AG blasts DeSantis over migrants flown to Sacramento

Sacramento, Calif. — California's attorney general said the state of Florida appears to have arranged for a group of South American migrants to be dropped off outside a Sacramento church.

"While this is still under investigation, we can confirm these individuals were in possession of documentation purporting to be from the government of the State of Florida," Rob Bonta tweeted in a statement late Saturday.

The documents indicate the Florida Division of Emergency Management coordinated the flights, Bonta told the Los Angeles Times. Florida paid contractor Vertol Systems Inc. $1.56 million to fly migrants from Texas to Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, last year.

Bonta told CNN, "We believe that the state of Florida, Gov. DeSantis, is behind it. Gov. DeSantis has demonstrated his pettiness, his lack of substance, his xenophobia, and his willingness to treat human beings, people, as political pawns. It's wrong, and we are getting to the bottom of it."

The 16 migrants who arrived in Sacramento on Friday are from Colombia and Venezuela. They entered the U.S. through Texas. They were transported to New Mexico then flown by a charter plane to California's capital, where they were then dropped off in front of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sacramento, California officials said.

The Sacramento religius facility where migrants form Florida were left on June 2, 2023. CBS Sacramento

The faith-based group Sacramento ACT is helping to care for them. One of its representatives observed to CBS Sacramento that, "They're human beings, they're people with families. There's some young people that are just trying to make a life for themselves. There are people who left children behind in this group."

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement late Saturday that the migrants were left by the church "without any advance warning."

Newsom said he and Bonta met with them, adding that California officials "are working closely with the Mayor's office, along with local and nonprofit partners to ensure the people who have arrived are treated with respect and dignity, and get to their intended destination(s) as they pursue their immigration cases."

The migrants were approached outside a migrant center in El Paso, Texas, by people who offered them jobs and travel assistance, said Eddie Carmona of PICO California, a faith-based group helping the migrants. They didn't know they were being taken to Sacramento and arrived with few belongings, he said.

Newsom said California officials are looking into "whether the individuals orchestrating this trip misled anyone with false promises or have violated any criminal laws, including kidnapping."

Bonta said in the tweeted statement that, "While we continue to collect evidence, I want to say this very clearly: State-sanctioned kidnapping is not a public policy choice, it is immoral and disgusting."

Bonta said he is evaluating whether violations of civil or criminal law took place.  

Vertol Systems Co. and the Florida Division of Emergency Management didn't immediately respond Sunday to emails seeking comment.

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