Florida’s emergency management department confirmed its role in flying migrants to Sacramento, California, but so far Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, now running for president in 2024, has kept his head above the fray of attacks from California Gov. Gavin Newsom, instead focusing on criticizing President Biden’s perceived failures on the border crisis.
In a statement to Fox News Digital Tuesday, Amelia Johnson, a spokeswoman for the Florida Division of Emergency Management, said migrants flown by private jet went voluntarily.
“As you can see from this video, Florida’s voluntary relocation is precisely that – voluntary,” she said. “Through verbal and written consent, these volunteers indicated they wanted to go to California. A contractor was present and ensured they made it safely to a 3rd-party NGO. The specific NGO, Catholic Charities, is used and funded by the federal government.”
“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,” the spokeswoman wrote.
Johnson shared a video compilation of migrants signing forms, as well as smiling and waving in what appeared to be a limo. Still photos in the clip showed migrants smiling and giving a thumbs up to the camera inside the jet plane. “We made it to California! Thank God! Very thankful to God!” one migrant says recording himself after landing.
Another migrant, recorded in a hotel room, expresses gratitude for the opportunity, saying the flight saved him from Central American paramilitaries and MS-13 gang violence. “At any point did you feel like you were treated poorly?” one woman asks a group of migrants on video. “No. No. They treated us super well,” one migrant answers while in what appears to be an office.
It’s not clear when and where the clips were recorded.
DeSantis so far has not responded after Newsom categorized the Florida governor Monday as a “small, pathetic man” and threatened potential kidnapping charges. California Attorney General Rob Bonta claimed Saturday that the group of migrants arrived in Sacramento “in possession of documentation purporting to be from the government of the State of Florida.”
“State-sanctioned kidnapping is not a public policy choice, it is immoral and disgusting,” Bonta wrote.
Two planes arrived in Sacramento, on Friday and Monday, each carrying asylum-seekers mostly from Colombia and Venezuela. The individuals had been picked up in El Paso, Texas, taken to New Mexico and then put on charter flights to California’s capital of Sacramento, Bonta, who is investigating whether any violations of criminal or civil law occurred, said.
Bonta told CNN late Tuesday he would be requesting that Florida turn over any video footage, unedited, that it has of the group.
Johnson included a chart of the “history of transportation of illegal immigrants across the nation,” noting Florida was not the only government entity relocating migrants.
The chart says Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has bussed 8,500 migrants to Washington, D.C., 4,000 to New York City, 1,300 to Chicago and 260 to Philadelphia. El Paso
Mayor Oscar Leeser, a Democrat, has sent 10,700 migrants to New York City and 3,250 migrants to Chicago, according to the Florida division of emergency management. New York City Mayor Eric Adams, another Democrat, bussed 340 migrants so far to other locations within New York States as well as an unknown number of migrants to Canada, Johnson said.
Meanwhile, DeSantis is hosting a roundtable related to the border crisis in Arizona Wednesday. He is joined by Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, Cochise County, Arizona, Sheriff Mark Dannels, Sheriff Grady Judd of Polk County, Florida, and Sheriff Wayne Ivey of Brevard County, Florida.
During his opening remarks, DeSantis mentioned California’s practice of issuing identification cards to illegal immigrants but did not mention Newsom. DeSantis said Florida empaneled a statewide grand jury last year that has issued reports “about the treatment of some of the people that are coming across the border that are basically being trafficked.”
“A lot of it is directly attributable to Biden administration policies,” DeSantis said.
The discussion features an array of topics including how the scourge of fentanyl is driving fatal overdoses and the challenges law enforcement are facing in patrolling the border.
DeSantis signed a law providing $12 million for his migrant-relocation initiative in early May, just weeks before announcing his Republican presidential bid. On the campaign trail, he has spoken about how Florida flew 49 migrants mostly from Venezuela to the upscale Massachusetts island of Martha’s Vineyard to protest federal immigration and sanctuary policies.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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