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California Investigating Whether Florida Sent Migrant Flights

California is investigating whether the state of Florida arranged for two planes carrying migrants to fly to its capital city Sacramento.

California’s attorney general, a Democrat, said the flights appeared to be part of a “scheme” by Florida.

Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis has not commented and neither have any officials from the state.

Last year, the presidential candidate sent two planes carrying migrants to a wealthy area of Massachusetts.

At the time, Mr DeSantis said the move was intended to highlight a crisis at the southern border with Mexico. It was criticised by Democrats as well as immigration activists.

On Monday, a group of around 20 people landed in Sacramento. Just days earlier, an initial group of 16 migrants arrived in the city.

Documents in their possession suggested they had been transported by a contractor for a Florida government programme. Californian officials are investigating whether any laws were broken and if the people were misled.

Gavin Newsom, California’s Democratic governor, hit out at Mr DeSantis on Monday calling him a “small, pathetic man”. In the tweet, he included a screenshot of a California legal code section on kidnapping.

“We are investigating whether those orchestrating the group’s trip misled anyone or violated laws,” he said

California Attorney General Rob Bonta said the first group had been transported from Texas to New Mexico, flown in a private chartered jet to Sacramento and driven to the Roman Catholic Diocese, a local church.

Paperwork they shared with authorities indicated they were participating in the migrant transportation system administered by Florida’s Division of Emergency Management and run by Florida-based contractor Vertol Systems Company Inc.

The second group was carrying similar documents and flew to California from the same airport as the first group.

Wilkendri Rodriguez, a 23-year-old migrant from Venezuela, told the New York Times that two men had approached him at a shelter in El Paso and offered him a flight to California.

“I don’t know what is their motivation to organise these trips,” he told the newspaper. “I don’t know if it’s political or part of the government. They didn’t tell us anything.”

Florida and at least two other Republican-controlled states have sent busloads of migrants, often with no advance warning, to Democratic-run cities in protest against President Joe Biden’s border policies. It comes amid a sharp rise in migrant arrivals at the southern border.

Vertol, which has ties to Florida’s Mr DeSantis, was paid more than $1.6m (£1.3m) last year for at least two migrant flights, including to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.

Mr DeSantis is contesting for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024. He will be holding a fundraiser in Sacramento for his campaign later this month.

Source : BBC