DeSantis Stays Silent on Whether Florida Arranged Migrant Flights to California
In his first public appearance since officials in California accused him of orchestrating recent charter flights that carried groups of migrants from Texas to Sacramento, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida did not address whether his state was responsible for the transports.
Instead, at what his office had billed as a news conference in Wildwood, Fla., Mr. DeSantis signed a bill on Tuesday morning that he said would give consumers more control over their online presence and then walked off the stage without taking questions from reporters.
“All right, guys, we’ll be back soon,” Mr. DeSantis said as he waved to the audience. “Thank you so much. Take care. Bye bye.”
The silence from Mr. DeSantis, a Republican running for president, on a high-profile incident drawing national interest is unusual, especially given pointed attacks on him in recent days from Gov. Gavin Newsom of California, a Democrat. Mr. DeSantis usually answers questions from the news media after events like the one on Tuesday. His office has not answered repeated inquiries about whether Florida is behind the flights.
Roughly three dozen migrants have arrived in Sacramento on two charter flights, one that touched down on Friday and another on Monday. The migrants, most of whom are from Venezuela, said they were recruited for the flights outside a shelter in El Paso. Several said they were promised help finding work.
Officials in California have blamed Mr. DeSantis for the flights, saying the migrants carried papers indicating that their travel had been arranged by the Florida Division of Emergency Management and a private contractor, Vertol Systems Company, that also arranged sending two planeloads of migrants to Martha’s Vineyard last year in an operation funded by Florida taxpayers.
For years, Mr. DeSantis and Mr. Newsom have used each other as foils to criticize what they describe as the extremes of their respective political parties. In April, Mr. Newsom visited New College of Florida, a public liberal arts institution that Mr. DeSantis is trying to reshape into a bastion of right-wing thought. He also aired a television advertisement in Florida attacking Mr. DeSantis.
For his part, Mr. DeSantis has often pointed to the number of Californians moving to Florida, spurred in part, he has suggested, by the state’s looser restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic.
On Monday, in the latest volley, Mr. Newsom on Twitter threatened kidnapping charges against those who organized the Sacramento flights and called Mr. DeSantis “pathetic.” Rob Bonta, California’s Democratic attorney general, has said investigators are examining whether any laws were broken. Officials from the California Department of Justice were seen interviewing the migrants who landed at Sacramento Executive Airport on Monday.
Also on Monday, a county sheriff in Texas announced that he was recommending that prosecutors file criminal charges pertaining to the Martha’s Vineyard flights last September, though he said nothing about who should be charged.
Neil Vigdor contributed reporting from Old Greenwich, Conn.
Nicholas Nehamas is a campaign reporter, focusing on the emerging candidacy of Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida. Before joining The Times in 2023, he worked for nine years at The Miami Herald, mainly as an investigative reporter. @NickNehamas
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