California AG says DeSantis’ ‘fingerprints’ are on flights bringing migrants to Sacramento

A migrant looks at the border wall while waiting to turn himself over to U.S Border Patrol agents.
A migrant looks at the border wall while waiting to turn himself over to U.S. Border Patrol agents along the U.S.-Mexico border on May 11 in San Luis Colorado, Sonora.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)
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Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Tuesday, June 6.

The latest salvo in the political and ideological battle over immigration has landed in California’s capital.

On Friday, a chartered jet from New Mexico landed in Sacramento, carrying 16 people who migrated from South America. The migrants later told state officials they were promised jobs and help finding work in the U.S. Instead, two men dropped them off at the doorstep of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sacramento and drove away.

Then Monday, a second flight — reportedly the same plane and also originating from the same airport in New Mexico — landed in Sacramento (though at a different airport), carrying roughly 20 migrants. Officials with the California Department of Justice “are on the ground and have made contact with these individuals,” the office said in a statement.


The Sacramento flights follow “similar ploys by conservative politicians in Republican-led states,” as my colleagues Connor Sheets and Ruben Vives wrote this week:

They and their supporters have said the efforts are aimed at raising awareness of the influx of migrants over the southern border and bringing the issue to the doorsteps of authorities in states led by Democrats. Opponents describe the moves as cruel political stunts that use immigrants as pawns and leave them many miles from family, resources and even the courthouses where they are often expected to appear to plead their cases for asylum.

As of Monday afternoon, no one had claimed responsibility for the flights. But state officials are pointing to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who launched a controversial program last year that rounds up people crossing into red border states and ships them off — sometimes under false pretenses — to blue states.

Migrants from both flights had documents appearing to show that the flight was arranged through the Florida Division of Emergency Management, according to California Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta.

DeSantis, who recently announced a presidential run, created a state program to relocate migrants last year, but was forced to halt it after being sued in state and federal court. But the program relaunched under an executive order DeSantis issued in January, citing a surge in migration “in and around Florida.”

Last month, DeSantis’ administration selected three companies to carry out the program, including Vertol Systems Co., which also received a contract in the earlier version of the program. Bonta identified Vertol Systems Co. as the contractor behind the recent flights.


“This is Gov. DeSantis, this is his baby, this is his project, his fingerprints are all over it,” Bonta said in an interview with The Times on Sunday. “The governor signed it, the Legislature approved to fund it in the budget, and they hired Vertol Systems Co., a vendor, to carry out the work.”

On Monday, Newsom tweeted a threat to DeSantis, calling him a “small, pathetic man” and linking to California’s criminal code section on kidnapping.

In a statement over the weekend, Bonta said his department was “evaluating potential criminal or civil action against those who transported or arranged for the transport of these vulnerable immigrants.”

“State-sanctioned kidnapping is not a public policy choice, it is immoral and disgusting,” his statement continued. “We are a nation built by immigrants and we must condemn the cruelty and hateful rhetoric of those, whether they are state leaders or private parties, who refuse to recognize humanity and who turn their backs on extending dignity and care to fellow human beings.”

Some of the migrants, who include people from Colombia and Venezuela, have immigration court dates as far away as New York and Chicago. Bonta told The Times they are receiving legal aid.

“California will welcome these immigrants with open arms and provide them with the respect, compassion, and care they need,” he said in a tweet Monday.


DeSantis’ office has not responded to requests for comment from myself or fellow Times reporters.

And now, here’s what’s happening across California, curated by Times utility reporter Karen Garcia:

Note: Some of the sites we link to may limit the number of stories you can access without subscribing.


Inflation and the possibility of a recession have Angelenos rethinking their grocery-buying habits. Some are switching supermarkets or shunning name-brand products. Carmen Allison, a vice president at market analytics firm Nielsen IQ, said consumers are using “a multipronged approach to try to make ends meet.” Los Angeles Times

Congress could earmark millions to address Los Angeles’ homelessness crisis. L.A. Mayor Karen Bass asked every member of the House and Senate who represents Los Angeles to use one of their allotted 15 annual earmark requests on a homelessness or housing project. One notable project is the Gower Street Apartments, a supportive housing complex. Los Angeles Times


One library in San Francisco discontinued its free Wi-Fi at night, often used by unhoused folks, despite a simultaneous citywide push to increase internet access. The Harvey Milk Branch cited vandalism and neighbor complaints that free Wi-Fi attracted unhoused people to the area and contributed to crime. The issue contributes to a larger conversation of inequitable access to the internet across the tech-ruled region. KQED


Starting June 30, the renewal process for permanent disabled parking placards is changing in an effort to stop fraudulent usage across California. Placard holders will be required to sign a form issued by the DMV to verify they’re still alive and in need of a tag once every six years. The Sacramento Bee


California is considering banning the use of “reverse search warrants,” which compel tech companies to disclose the identities of individuals based on the location of their phone and internet search history. The bill is sponsored by the Women’s Legislative Caucus and Future of Abortion Council, and is intended to protect the identities of people seeking abortion services or gender-affirming care. CalMatters

The city of Fresno launched a campaign to crack down on street racing and sideshows where drivers and spectators block off intersections to watch cars spin doughnuts. Fresno has funded 10 officers and a sergeant for the street racing unit. Officials announced a hotline 621-RACE for anyone to report tips or information. The Fresno Bee

The LAPD is investigating a string of five armed robberies at taco trucks within a week. No arrests have been made, but police say they may be connected. Los Angeles Times

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Warehouse workers in the Inland Empire region are demanding stronger extreme heat protections. Workers say more restrictions are needed beyond California’s established rules that require employers to protect workers from extreme heat while working outside. The California Department of Industrial Relations and Cal/OSHA are proposing new indoor heat standards, as mandated by the state. LAist


The railway line linking Orange County and northern San Diego County is again closed because of a landslide. Workers discovered the slide Monday morning. Southbound Metrolink service now stops at Laguna Niguel/Mission Viejo. Metrolink is offering Uber vouchers for passengers to use toward completing their trips. Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner provided bus service between Irvine and Oceanside during previous closures. Service had resumed in late May after a nearly monthlong closure. Los Angeles Times


The Los Angeles Times is launching a new team to cover everything Latinidad in Los Angeles and across the country. De Los, a team of Latino reporters, editors, illustrators and creatives, is taking back ownership of “ni de aquí, ni de allá” exploring the nuances of Latinidad. It’s coverage that’s for and with the community. As the team gears up for its launch in July, it’s taking story ideas from you. Los Angeles Times

Sick of June gloom? These hikes will take you above the fog. With a combination of the timing, landscape and luck, Casey Schreiner says that layer of gray can provide some of the most dramatic scenery L.A.’s trails have to offer — you just have to get above it. Los Angeles Times

Fo Guang Hsi Lai Temple, in Hacienda Heights, opened its doors to The Times to talk about different types of meditation. The temple promotes Humanistic Buddhism, a philosophy that uses Buddhist teachings to assist in day-to-day activities and relationships, such as walking meditation that focuses on centering yourself and uniting the mind and body. Los Angeles Times

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Today’s California landmark is from Ronak Gor of Los Angeles: the architecturally marvelous Sheats-Goldstein residence in Beverly Hills. You might recognize it from “The Big Lebowski.”

People walk next to a pool in front of a large concrete roof slanting up with dense trees behind.
The iconic Sheats-Goldstein residence, photographed in May 2023.
(Ronak Gor)

Gor writes:

I visited this place with my son, who will start his college this fall. Since I am an architect... I want to see how a void can be shaped into something that can evoke various sentiments. This house might become a museum soon, so having this opportunity to take pics while [it’s] still a residence was an experience.

What are California’s essential landmarks? Fill out this form to send us your photos of a special spot in California — natural or human-made. Tell us why it’s interesting and what makes it a symbol of life in the Golden State. Please be sure to include only photos taken directly by you. Your submission could be featured in a future edition of the newsletter.

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