DeSantis defends migrant flights amid California investigation

Tribune Content Agency

ORLANDO, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis broke his silence on the latest migrant flights Wednesday, defending the state’s decision to send two groups of Venezuelans and others from Texas to Sacramento.

The move led California Gov. Gavin Newsom to threaten those responsible with kidnapping charges or other crimes.

“The sanctuary jurisdictions are part of the reason we have this problem,” DeSantis said at an event in Arizona on Wednesday, referring to California. “When they have to deal with some of the fruits of that, they all become very, very upset about that.”

It was DeSantis’ first comments since the two migrant flights carrying 36 migrants from outside El Paso, Texas, to Sacramento happened on Friday and Monday. California’s Attorney General Rob Bonta immediately pointed the finger at Florida based on documents the migrants held, but state officials did not confirm their responsibility until Tuesday.

DeSantis was in Sierra Vista, Arizona, to hold an hourlong roundtable about securing the Mexican border with Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey, and sheriffs from Western states.

The discussion, which took place just before a DeSantis fundraising trip to Texas, was billed as an official Florida event.

The governor’s office did not respond to questions about whether DeSantis and the other Florida officials flew on the state plane to the event.

DeSantis echoed a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Emergency Management who on Tuesday claimed the migrants voluntarily chose to fly to Sacramento.

“A place like California, they give benefits, they give unemployment checks, they do all that,” DeSantis said. “And so you could see why some of those folks were interested in going that direction.”

Newsom, however, told NBC’s “Today Show” on Wednesday that he spoke with the migrants who said they were tricked.

“(They) lied to them, took them into another state by bus and then took them on a charter flight to Sacramento, lying to them that they had help on the other side, knocked on the door, and they left these migrants right there on the steps,” Newsom said. “What kind of human being does that?”

The migrants were “human beings used as pawns for a guy’s political advancement,” Newsom said. “That’s pretty sad and pathetic.”

Newsom, a longtime foil of DeSantis, said it was “hyperbole” when he was asked by an NBC reporter if DeSantis would be in danger of being arrested when the governor comes to California later this month for a scheduled fundraiser.

But added, “we’re not backing away from getting the facts and holding those accountable if they broke the laws of the state of California.”

“We have to do the investigation,” Newsom said. “And so it’s ‘ready, aim, fire,’ not ‘ready, fire, aim.’ That’s his (DeSantis’) approach. Our approach is to seek first to collect all the facts.

“This is California, the fourth or fifth largest economy on planet Earth,” he said. “We mean business. And so Ron DeSantis should know that.”