Updated Jun 6, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Newsom threatens DeSantis with kidnapping charges over migrant flights

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (R) speaks as state Attorney General Rob Bonta (C) looks on during a press conference on February 01, 2023 in Sacramento, California.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta watches as state Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) speaks during a February press conference in Sacramento, California. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

California Attorney General Rob Bonta (D) accused Florida officials on Monday of misleading migrants over their transportation from the Texas border to Sacramento.

Driving the news: Bonta told KCRA he has evidence that the two flights that arrived in Sacramento within four days of each other were part of a "scheme" that's "official policy of the state of Florida whereby the state of Florida used public tax dollars to fund this program, the so-called voluntary transportation program."

  • The California A.G. said on ABC News Monday night that his investigation indicated that the migrants were misled by being promised help finding jobs if they got on the planes, but were later "dumped and deserted."

Meanwhile, California authorities said they have evidence that Vertol Systems, which Florida officials paid to fly 49 undocumented migrants to Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts last September, was hired to transport the Latin American migrants to Sacramento.

  • A spokesperson for California's attorney general confirmed this in an emailed statement early Tuesday ET, saying the people who arrived in Sacramento "carried documents indicating that their transportation to California involved the State of Florida."
  • "All arrows point to this is the official program ... of Ron DeSantis' state of Florida," Bonta said on ABC of the planes that arrived Monday and Friday, carrying a total of 36 migrants.

State of play: California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said in a statement Monday that he and Bonta met with over a dozen migrants in the state capital he said "were transported from Texas to New Mexico before being flown by private chartered jet to Sacramento and dumped on the doorstep of a local church without any advance warning."

  • Representatives for Lawyers for Civil Rights, which is representing migrants in a class action lawsuit against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) in the Martha's Vineyard case, said in an emailed statement that the group had attorneys "now on the ground in Sacramento" providing assistance.

What they're saying: Newsom tweeted at DeSantis to reference the two planes of migrants the 2024 Republican presidential candidate arranged to be sent to Martha's Vineyard as he suggested California officials could pursue kidnapping charges over the matter.

A screenshot of a tweet by California Gov. Gavin Newsom saying: "@RonDeSantis  you small, pathetic man.  This isn't Martha's Vineyard.  Kidnapping charges?  Read the following" and linking to the California legislature’s kidnapping ordinance.
Photo: California Gov. Gavin Newsom/Twitter

Of note: A Texas sheriff recommended on Monday criminal charges in the Martha's Vinyard migrant flights case, though his office in Bexar County did not name any suspects.

The big picture: DeSantis has made the issue of migrants a key policy of his Florida administration.

  • In February, he signed into law a bill to expand a controversial state program used to relocate migrants from anywhere in the country to Democratic-led cities amid a protest against President Biden's immigration and border policies.
  • In May, DeSantis signed an immigration bill that gave $12 million to Florida's migrant relocation program — which drew national headlines after the Martha's Vineyard incident.

The intrigue: DeSantis is scheduled to fund-raise in Sacramento on June 19.

What's next: Bonta told ABC News officials were still trying to determine whether what happened to the migrants who arrived in Sacramento was illegal.

  • Kidnapping charges against DeSantis were among the crimes investigators were looking at, Bonta added.
  • Representatives for his office and Vertol Systems did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with comment from the California Attorney General's Office.

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