California Attorney General Rob Bonta is probing whether migrants flown by private plane to Sacramento on Friday without prior arrangements in place were sent from Florida.
“We are investigating the circumstances by which these individuals were brought to California,” Bonta said in a statement Saturday. “We are also evaluating potential criminal or civil action against those who transported or arranged for the transport of these vulnerable immigrants.”
“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,” he added. “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.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office did not respond to NBC News’ request for comment.
DeSantis, who is running for the GOP presidential nomination, last year flew 50 mostly Venezuelan immigrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts without notice. DeSantis said the flight was meant to highlight the crisis at the southern border, while Democrats and immigration activists said it made political pawns of vulnerable asylum seekers.
Although Florida’s migrant transport program has been largely dormant since the flights last year, the DeSantis administration has quietly signaled that it could potentially restart. The USA Today Network reported last month that the governor’s administration has picked three vendors, including Vertol Systems Company, which carried out the September flights to Martha’s Vineyard, to work with the migrant transfer program.
The Florida Legislature passed a bill in February that expanded DeSantis’ program enabling government officials to fly migrants to destinations in blue states that have sanctuary policies in place. The Republican-controlled Legislature gave the DeSantis administration $10 million for the program during a February special legislative session, and $12 million more during the recently concluded 2023 legislative session.
DeSantis also signed a sweeping immigration overhaul bill last month, weeks before he announced his presidential campaign and a day before the Biden administration ended Title 42, a Covid restriction that made it easier to expel migrants at the southern border.