California Attorney General Bonta Demands Records: Florida Authorities Owe Us Answers Over Deceptive and Immoral Migrant Transports

Wednesday, June 14, 2023
Contact: (916) 210-6000,

Today's record request is part of an ongoing law enforcement investigation into the transport of 36 asylum seekers to California

SACRAMENTO – In a crucial move to unearth the circumstances under which 36 migrants were recently transported to California, Attorney General Rob Bonta today issued a public records request to the Office of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and the Florida Division of Emergency Management. These inquiries are part of an ongoing law enforcement investigation into the conditions under which the migrants seeking asylum were brought into California pursuant to Florida’s so-called “Voluntary Migrant Transport Program.”

 "Upon meeting with the asylum seekers who had been flown to Sacramento via private plane, without any prior arrangements or immediate care provision, we understood the urgent need for a thorough investigation," said Attorney General Bonta. "These letters represent our commitment to transparency and justice. We need to understand the circumstances that led to the implementation of this operation – which was apparently paid for by Florida taxpayer dollars – and the decisions and directives that led to this questionable act. The information gathered will be crucial in determining whether the law has been violated and, if so, what subsequent steps are required to prevent such disregard for human rights from recurring.”

 On June 2, and June 5, two separate groups of asylum seekers were transported from Texas to New Mexico, and then flown to Sacramento, California. Those who arrived on June 2 were left at the door of the Catholic diocese in Sacramento. These individuals were in possession of documentation purporting to be from the government of the State of Florida and its "Voluntary Migrant Transport Program," which contracted with Vertol Systems Company, Inc., to carry out the transport. The California Department of Justice (DOJ) swiftly launched an investigation into the circumstances by which these individuals were brought to California, who funded their travel, and whether these individuals were given false information –– especially as many of the asylum seekers already had immigration proceedings underway. The DOJ investigation seeks to determine whether potential criminal and civil action is warranted. 

Today, Attorney General Bonta has dispatched the two letters formally seeking records under Chapter 119 of the Florida Statutes, a law that ensures public access to governmental records, with the intention of shedding light on the operations and decision-making processes that culminated in these migrant transports.

Specifically, the requests focus on:

  • Communications between the Florida Governor’s office or the Florida Division of Emergency Management and any private entity involved in the migrant transports.
  • Any instructions or orders given by these offices to any private entity involved in the transports.
  • Communications between these offices and any migrant related to the transportation to California.
  • Communications between these offices and the Florida Department of Transportation regarding these transports.
  • Any records related to the transportation of migrants into California, including those that originated in El Paso, TX, and arrived in Sacramento, CA on June 2, 2023, and June 5, 2023.
  • Unredacted versions of all bids or proposals submitted in response to Request for Proposal No. RFP-DEM-22-23-028, including communications and contracts related to the said proposal.
  • Communications and any instructions or orders provided by these offices to entities involved in the transportation, including but not limited to Vertol Systems Company, Inc., and Berry Aviation.

The California Department of Justice will utilize the obtained records to aid the ongoing investigations. Meanwhile, California remains steadfast in offering dignified treatment to migrants. Attorney General Bonta is committed to upholding justice and the rights of all individuals within California's jurisdiction.

A copy of the letters sent to the Governor of Florida and Florida Department of Emergency Management can be found here and here.                                               

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