A private plane carrying 20 migrants from Texas arrived in California’s capital city of Sacramento Monday morning, officials said – the second such arrival of migrants in the city from a conservative state in several days.
“Special Agents from the California Department of Justice are on the ground and have made contact with these individuals,” said Tara Gallegos, a spokesperson for California Attorney General Rob Bonta.
Investigators have determined the migrants were asylum seekers and, like migrants who were flown in Friday, were carrying documents purportedly from the Florida government. The papers listed Vertol Systems Company Inc., as the contractor behind the flights.
Agents were aware the Monday flight was on its way and greeted the migrants.
The attorney general’s office is working to confirm details about the migrants – including their nationalities – but said the plane that brought them to California was operated by the same contractor used in a charter flight that brought migrants to California on Friday, Gallegos added.
“We’re investigating the circumstances by which they were brought to California,” Bonta tweeted. “State-sanctioned kidnapping is immoral.”
California and Sacramento officials are not aware of plans for additional charter flights carrying migrants to California, but there is “probably a reasonable expectation” they will continue and the city is prepared, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg said in a news conference Monday.
Migrants had paperwork purporting to be from Florida
The 16 migrants who arrived Friday had been taken from Texas to New Mexico, then flown in a private chartered jet to California, where they were “dumped on the doorstep of a local church without any advance warning,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement.
The migrants, who were originally from Colombia and Venezuela, were also carrying paperwork purporting to be from Florida, officials said.
After the first plane’s arrival in the state capital, Bonta said his office was investigating the incident and “evaluating potential criminal or civil action against those who transported or arranged for the transport of these vulnerable immigrants.”
Members of the first group told authorities while in Texas they were told to sign documents before they could board the plane to Sacramento, Gallegos said Monday. However, not all the migrants, who are not fluent in English, understood where they were headed and not all signed the forms, she said.
The migrants shared documents with investigators, including waivers saying they agreed “to participate in the state of Florida’s voluntary transportation program,” Gallegos said. The consent form indicates they understood “this program is administered by the Florida Division of Emergency Management.”
CNN has reached out to state officials from Texas and Florida for comment.
While en route to California on Sunday, some in the group took photos and videos of their journey, capturing images of the people who approached them in El Paso and led them to Sacramento, said Gallegos.
The circumstances around who paid for the group’s travel, and whether the migrants were misled with false promises, will be investigated, according to the governor.
The city, meanwhile, said it’s working to help the migrants.
“Sacramento is going to do everything it can to care for these vulnerable people who are dropped off at our doorsteps,” Steinberg said. “No matter what the terrible motivation was from whoever did this, that’s our job.”
Steinberg said he has yet to meet any of the migrants but heard from people who spoke with them that they were scared but now “finally feel safe because they know that they are now in the arms of a community that cares about them.”
California attorney general says migrants were misled
Bonta told CNN on Sunday the state believes Florida is behind the flights and is “investigating now to see if there are any criminal or civil laws that were violated.”
The attorney general alleged the migrants were misled, telling authorities they were given false promises about getting help finding jobs if they got on the plane.
On Monday, Newsom, a Democrat, called GOP Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is also running for president, a “small, pathetic man” in a tweet, apparently referring to his alleged role in the first flight.
”.@RonDeSantis you small, pathetic man. This isn’t Martha’s Vineyard. Kidnapping charges?” Newsom tweeted, linking to a California penal code that indicates a person from out of state who transports someone else to California “by force or fraud” could be found guilty of kidnapping.
The Florida Legislature has set aside $22 million for migrant transport.
Last year, DeSantis sent two planes carrying migrants to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. Migrants have also been bused from border towns to sanctuary cities in recent years with little to no notice.
A Texas sheriff whose office has been investigating the transfer of migrants to Martha’s Vineyard in September said Monday he will file charges – but didn’t specify against who.
The office will recommend charges of unlawful restraint, both misdemeanor and felony, according to a statement from the office of Sheriff Javier Salazar, a Democrat.
The case is being reviewed by the Bexar County District Attorney’s office. CNN has reached out to the office for comment.
In September, the Texas sheriff said 48 migrants were flown to Martha’s Vineyard for “a photo-op and stranded.” He said he believes the migrants were “exploited and hoodwinked” into making the trip for political posturing.
DeSantis said at the time the migrants weren’t misled. “Why wouldn’t they want to go, given where they were? They were in really, really bad shape and they got to be cleaned up, everything, treated well,” he told Fox News in September.
In October, the office of the Treasury Department’s inspector general sent a letter to Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey saying it would examine the Florida flights carrying migrants to Martha’s Vineyard. The Oct. 7 letter said the department would audit the use of State and Local Fiscal Recovery funds, which were dispersed to help with recovery after the pandemic.
“We want accountability. We want the end to this morally bankrupt pack practice that hurts people, treat them as pawns, weaponizes human beings, and represents the worst of who we can be,” Bonta told CNN.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Monday said the Biden administration is in touch with California state officials on the flights to offer any assistance that they might need, adding that the incidents put “people’s lives at risk.”
“I’ve said it many times from here, repeatedly from this podium, that busing or flying migrants around the country without any coordination with the federal government – we’ve talked about this – state or local officials as well – is dangerous and unacceptable. And we’ll continue to be very, very clear about that.
“It is dangerous and unacceptable because you’re putting people’s lives at risk.”
CNN’s Ashley Killough, Ed Lavandera, Priscilla Alvarez, Taylor Romine, Andi Babineau and Nick Watt contributed to this report.