SACRAMENTO, Calif. (OSV News) — The Diocese of Sacramento joined the city of Sacramento and community organizations to welcome 36 migrants who were flown to the California capital June 2 and 6 on flights arranged by Florida officials.
After the first group arrived, Sacramento Bishop Jaime Soto said, “Within each of the 16 migrants transported to Sacramento on Friday, we recognize the humble presence of Jesus, and we hear his call to stand by them.”
“The urgency to respond was heard by Catholics and people of good will. We are thankful to our partner organizations who took up the holy work of hospitality, dedicating their time and resources to ensure that every migrant did not feel alone and abandoned,” he said in a statement sent to OSV News.
AP reported that “asylum-seekers mostly from Colombia and Venezuela” had been picked up “in El Paso, Texas, taken to New Mexico and then put on charter flights” to Sacramento.
California officials speculated that Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis was behind the flights, because his administration had done that before, most notably in September 2022, when a group of migrants was flown to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, with DeSantis arguing his state was helping migrants who entered the U.S. illegally to get to a sanctuary state.
On June 6, the Florida Division of Emergency Management confirmed in a statement that Florida had chartered the two flights. California Attorney General Rob Bonta said he was considering legal action over the flights, which he said could amount to “state-sanctioned kidnapping.” But the Florida agency’s statement included a video it said shows the migrants voluntarily signed paperwork to take the flights.
A day later, during a meeting with sheriffs in Arizona near the state’s border with Mexico, DeSantis, a Republican candidate for U.S. president and a Catholic, confirmed his state’s decision to arrange and pay for the flights for the migrants, according to AP. On May 10, he had signed an immigration bill into law that included $12 million to pay for such flights.
“I think the border should be closed. I don’t think we should have any of this,” DeSantis was quoted as telling the sheriffs. “But if there’s a policy to have an open border, then I think the sanctuary jurisdictions should be the ones that have to bear that.”
One of the Sacramento organizations assisting the migrants is Sacramento ACT, an interfaith community organization coordinating care for the migrants.
“Local leaders, state leaders, and the faith community have embraced our brothers and sisters,” the organization said in a statement posted on its website. “We are working hard to coordinate the support they need. It has been beautiful to see the response from the Sacramento and California community working together to help the group feel safe and welcome. We will continue to collaborate so that they are treated with dignity and respect.”
The Sacramento Bee daily newspaper reported that Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg met with the migrants the evening of June 6. “The only thing they want is the opportunity to give back, to work hard and to contribute to this country so that they can help their families,” he told reporters.