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‘Bring it on’: Sacramento faith leaders welcome migrants flown from Texas with phones, clothes and lawyers

May 31, 2023

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Sacramento is seen in Sacramento, Calif., Monday, June 5, 2023. Sixteen migrants from Venezuela and Colombia were brought to the diocese's offices on Friday, June 2, 2023, after being flown from Texas to Sacramento.

Tran Nguyen / AP Photo

Volunteers and faith leaders shared new details about the 36 migrants flown to Sacramento — whose travel was coordinated by Florida officials — during a press conference held at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral Tuesday morning.

An initial group of 16 was flown via private jet to Sacramento's McClellan airport. According to volunteers, a bus took them to the Catholic Diocese of Sacramento and left them there. Another group of 20 was flown Monday to Sacramento Executive Airport, where investigators with the California Department of Justice made contact with them.

The group of asylum seekers came from Venezuela, Colombia and Guatemala. They told volunteers in Sacramento that they were approached outside a migrant facility in Texas by people purporting to work for Florida's government with the promise of jobs.

Florida lawmakers approved funding to transport immigrants to other parts of the country, even if they never step foot in the Sunshine State. Florida has carried out similar flights, carrying migrants from Texas to Massachusetts last year.

Gabby Trejo, executive director of Sacramento ACT, the multi-faith community organization coordinating care for the migrants, said the group "came here ready to work."

"They are here to contribute to our community. They are beautiful, beautiful young people full of hope," she said.

Trejo said the migrants did not want to speak to the media but were being sheltered in two separate groups in an undisclosed location. They had also been provided with meals, phones and a trip to the thrift store to pick out clothing.

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg said he met with the migrants Monday night and was struck by their desire to work.

"They came to this country for the most pure reason," he said. "They want a better life for themselves and their families."

Steinberg said the city stands ready if more migrants are brought here. "Bring it on. Our community will never say no," he said.

Of concerns for caring for dozens of migrants on top of the city's challenges with homelessness, the mayor said "there is no other answer but to say yes. You better believe we can handle it."

Cecilia Flores, a volunteer with Sacramento ACT emphasized that while the group will continue to provide support, the migrants are "free agents" and can travel to other destinations if they choose. She said some have expressed interest in staying in the area.

Four of the migrants have already left Sacramento to reunite with family in the Bay Area, Flores said.

Sacramento ATC is raising funds to ensure every traveler has legal representation. Flores said some of the migrants have court dates in other locations as soon as next week.

On Tuesday afternoon, Florida officials confirmed they were involved in transporting the asylum seekers, rebuffing claims of kidnapping by Governor Gavin Newsom.

"Florida's voluntary relocation is precisely that — voluntary," Alecia Collins with Florida's Division of Emergency Management told CapRadio. "Through verbal and written consent, these volunteers indicated they wanted to go to California."

Florida officials also released a video that they claim shows the migrants signing waivers, boarding flights and thanking officials for their safety. CapRadio could not independently confirm the identity of individuals shown in the video.

Anthony York, a spokesperson for Newsom, called the video "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."

Over the weekend, California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced that his office had begun an investigation into the "circumstances by which these individuals were brought to California," and will also evaluate whether violations of civil or criminal law took place.

And on Monday, a Texas county sheriff's office filed criminal charges over Florida's migrant flight from Texas to Massachusetts last year. A representative with the sheriff's office told Houston Public Media that it has filed "several" counts of unlawful restraint, both felony and misdemeanor.

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