SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Sixteen migrants from Venezuela and Colombia were taken from El Paso, Texas, to New Mexico, and then flown by private chartered jet to Sacramento, where they were left on the doorstep of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sacramento.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Saturday that he and Attorney General Rob Bonta met with the migrants, and that he is working with Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg's office as well as area nonprofits "to ensure the people who have arrived are treated with respect and dignity, and get to their intended destination as they pursue their immigration cases."
"My administration is also working with the California Department of Justice to investigate the circumstances around who paid for the group's travel and whether the individuals orchestrating this trip misled anyone with false promises or have violated any criminal laws, including kidnapping," Newsom said.
Sacramento ACT, a collaboration of area religious congregations, said in a statement that after being processed at the border, the migrants were approached by "individuals representing a private contractor" who said they would assist them with getting to a migrant center where they would find jobs and free support.
The migrants, upon arriving in Sacramento, had no idea where they were and "only a backpack's worth of belongings," Sacramento ACT said.
The group said that the migrants all have pending court appearances, and that by transporting them to California under false pretenses, there will be a disruption in their legal due process.
"What has occurred recently with the deceiving drop off of our undocumented brothers and sisters into the Sacramento area grieves my heart. This political polarizing act is heartbreaking and yet I rejoice that I am part of a movement that brings the love of God and goodwill upon the injustices and political wickedness that impacts our vulnerable brothers and sisters," the Rev. Efrem Smith, Sacramento ACT president, said in a statement.
Rabbi Mona Alfi, of Congregation B'nai Israel, said that what happened to the migrants was "a moral travesty" and that "these are human beings, no different than you or me, who simply want to take care of their families and live a peaceful life, and they deserve to be treated better."
Eddie Carmona, director of campaigns for PICO California, a faith-based community organizing group, said in a statement that the migrants "are members of our families, communities, and part of the fabric of our state."
Airport records from FlightAware show only one flight between New Mexico and any of the Sacramento-area airports on Friday: A three-hour, 11-minute flight operated by Texas-based Barry Aviation from Deming Municipal Airport in Luna County, about 80 miles northwest of El Paso, to McClellan Airport near North Highlands.
This is not the first time that migrants have been flown to California's capital.
In September, eight Venezuelan migrants, who had crossed the U.S. border at Laredo, Texas, were flown to Sacramento, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, both Republicans, have in the past taken credit for busing or flying migrants to various places in the U.S., including New York, Martha's Vineyard, Mass., and Washington, D.C.