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Florida official says migrants flown to Sacramento went willingly, refutes claims of coercion

"Through verbal and written consent, these volunteers indicated they wanted to go to California."

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration said Tuesday that three dozen migrants whom the state flew from the U.S. southern border to California on private planes all went willingly, refuting allegations by California officials that the individuals were coerced to travel under false pretenses.

Recently, Sacramento saw dozens of migrants flown to the city and dropped off. California leaders had their suspicions as to who was behind it, but on Tuesday, it was confirmed by the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

Florida officials said the relocation was voluntary and done through verbal and written consent.

"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," the Division of Emergency Management said in a news release.

A spokesperson also shared a video compilation that appeared to show people signing consent forms and thanking officials for treating them well. The clips had no time stamps, and Collins declined to share additional details about when and where they were recorded. 

It was the DeSantis administration's first acknowledgment that it coordinated the flights.

UC Davis Political Science Professor Brad Jones called the move a cynical political stunt on the part of DeSantis.

"The lives of desperate asylum seekers, and migrants are kind of being toyed with by sort of dangling something in front of them, that says 'Hey, here’s your ticket to a better life.' When in fact, all it is is a flight to another location, and they’re situation hasn’t changed a single bit," said Jones.

Jones believes the DeSantis administration isn't done yet. 

"What makes you think it’s going to stop? Short of legal action, that actually prevents it from happening, but we’ve not seen that yet. And this is just a thing that’s going to happen with increased rapidity as we move into the election cycle," said Jones.

The Office of Governor Gavin Newsom also spoke out on the news not long after it was announced. 

"This is exploitative propaganda being peddled by a politician who has shown there are no depths he won’t sink to in his desperate effort to score a political point. Governor Newsom said it best. The Florida governor is small and pathetic, and this video is just another reminder of that," said Anthony York, spokesperson for the governor.

Migrant Drop-offs in Sacramento

16 migrants were taken from Texas to New Mexico before they were put on a chartered plane to California's capital Friday.

Religious leaders at the Catholic Church Diocese of Sacramento said migrants approaching their offices had no idea where they were and only carried a backpack's worth of belongings.

Another plane carrying migrants landed at Sacramento Executive Airport Monday — just days after 16 Colombian and Venezuelan migrants turned up at the Catholic Church diocese’s headquarters in Sacramento.

The plane landed around 10:30 a.m. carrying about 20 people. It is not clear what countries the 20 people are from.

"The flight came from Deming, New Mexico. Before that the flight had originated in El Paso. We do not know if the migrants aboard, the 20 migrants aboard got on in Deming or El Paso," Kim Nava, spokesperson for Sacramento County, previously told ABC10.


Sacramento mayor speaks out after about 20 migrants dropped off in Sacramento


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