A group of Latin American migrants aboard a chartered private plane landed at a small airport in Sacramento on Monday, the second such planeload in three days to arrive in California’s capital city from an airfield in New Mexico.
The group of about 20 migrants, who said they were mainly from Venezuela, landed just before 10:30 a.m. Pacific time and were ushered into a room at Sacramento Executive Airport to meet with officials from California’s Department of Justice. One of the migrants, David Mata, 28, said he had arrived in the United States from Venezuela roughly two weeks ago looking for work. Mr. Mata said he did not know who had orchestrated his trip to Sacramento, but said that whoever did had paid for it in its entirety.
Another group of migrants arrived on Friday at a different Sacramento airport aboard the same private plane. The authorities in California said those migrants carried papers indicating that their travel had been “administered by the Florida Division of Emergency Management” and its contractor, Vertol Systems Company, which is based in Florida. It was not immediately clear whether the group that arrived on Monday carried similar papers, but a California Department of Justice official said it appeared that the same company — and the state of Florida — was involved.
Gov. Gavin Newsom of California and the state’s attorney general, Rob Bonta, who are both Democrats, have said they believed Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, a Republican running for president, had arranged for the flight on Friday. So far, Mr. DeSantis has not acknowledged that Florida was responsible, although the details of the incident — including the apparent involvement of Vertol, a private air services and defense contractor — mirror an operation last fall, when the governor sent two planeloads of migrants from San Antonio to the island of Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.
The migrants who were flown to California on Friday began their journey in El Paso and were taken from there to a municipal airport in New Mexico. After they arrived in Sacramento, they were dropped off outside a church building.
Over the weekend, Mr. Newsom and other California officials accused Vertol of transporting the group under a false promise of jobs if the migrants agreed to be taken to California. Mr. Bonta said that California state investigators would pursue the possibility of criminal or civil charges against whoever was involved in flying the migrants to Sacramento, calling the action “morally bankrupt.”
The migrants who arrived on Monday, who said their journey, too, had begun in El Paso, were flown from the same airport in New Mexico, according to the flight tracking website FlightAware.
Representatives of Mr. DeSantis have not responded to requests for comment. Neither has the Florida Division of Emergency Management, which is running the state’s taxpayer-funded program to transport migrants from the southern border to other areas of the United States. Mr. DeSantis appeared on a Fox News radio program Monday morning, but did not discuss the migrants who had mysteriously appeared in Sacramento.
If Mr. DeSantis is indeed responsible for the latest flights, they offer a taste of how he may use the power of his office to aid his presidential campaign. He is scheduled to hold a fund-raiser in Sacramento on June 19, part of a swing through California to meet wealthy donors. On the campaign trail, he frequently invokes the migrant flights he sent to “beautiful” Martha’s Vineyard, usually to cheers from his audiences, and claims that under President Biden, the nation’s southern border has “collapsed.”
“We have opposed illegal immigration by banning sanctuary cities, cracking down on human smuggling, deploying troops to help on the southern border, and even sending illegal aliens to Martha’s Vineyard,” Mr. DeSantis said last week at a rally outside Des Moines.
On Monday, Mr. Newsom, who has clashed repeatedly with Mr. DeSantis, responded to his Florida counterpart on Twitter, suggesting that the flights could result in “kidnapping charges.”
“This isn’t Martha’s Vineyard,” Mr. Newsom wrote.
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