California AG says Florida responsible for flying migrants to Sacramento under 'false promises'

California’s attorney general said the state of Florida appears to have arranged for a group of South American migrants to be dropped off outside a Sacramento church, lured by false promises of finding work. 

"While this is still under investigation, we can confirm these individuals were in possession of documentation purporting to be from the government of the State of Florida," state Attorney General Rob Bonta said in a statement late Saturday.

The documents said the migrants were transported through a program run by Florida’s Division of Emergency Management and carried out by contractor Vertol Systems Co., said Tara Gallegos, a spokesperson for Bonta. 

Florida paid the same contractor $1.56 million last year to fly migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, and for a possible second flight to Delaware that never took place.

The 16 migrants who arrived in Sacramento on Friday are from Colombia and Venezuela. They are in their teens and mid-20s. 

They entered the U.S. through Texas. 

They were transported to New Mexico and then flown by a charter plane to California’s capital, where they were then dropped off in front of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sacramento, California officials said.

They were approached outside a migrant center in El Paso, Texas, by people who offered them jobs and travel assistance, said Eddie Carmona of PICO California, a faith-based group helping the migrants. They did not know they were being taken to Sacramento and arrived with few belongings, he said.

"They're saying they were given false promises by Virgil systems representatives," Bonta told CNN over the weekend. "They were manipulated, mistreated, abused and exploited."

Vertol Systems Co. and the Florida Division of Emergency Management did not immediately respond Sunday to emails seeking comment.

KTVU also reached out to the office of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Texas Department of Public Safety for comment but has not yet heard back. 

The California Department of Justice is investigating 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.

"While we continue to collect evidence, I want to say this very clearly: State-sanctioned kidnapping is not a public policy choice, it is immoral and disgusting," Bonta said in a statement.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement that he and Bonta met with the migrants this weekend, describing them as having been "dumped on the doorstep" of a local church.

He said he is working with the mayor's office to ensure that they are "treated with respect and dignity" and he is working to get them to their intended destinations as they pursue their immigration cases. 

A group of local religious congregations has been helping with housing, food, clothing and phones. 

"For them to come to Sacramento and experience such generosity has been both such a blessing a huge opportunity to reconnect with family members back home to let them know they are safe," said Gaby Trejo of Sacramento Area Congregations Together.