June 11, 2023


Migrants say Florida contractors pushed to get them to board planes to California (Jack Herrera, Jun. 10th, 2023, LA Times)

María traveled more than 2,800 miles from Venezuela to reach the United States in early May. Once crossing the border, however, she made it only four blocks, to a shelter at Sacred Heart Church in downtown El Paso.

Like many asylum seekers released on parole by Customs and Border Protection, she had no money to pay for a plane or bus ticket, she said. She slept in the church shelter, then in the alley outside, for three weeks, until a woman approached and said she would fly María on a private plane to California.

"She said I should go, that there were people there to receive us who would give us lodging, that they would help us ... get our [immigration] papers in order," said María, who asked to be identified only by her first name, out of fear of repercussions from the woman.

What María didn't know was that the woman was a contractor hired by the administration of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

María had found herself in the center of a political storm. Migrant flights and the national attention they've drawn are yet another chapter in the political fight over the border, with California officials vowing to investigate whether travelers were misled and the Florida governor doubling down on hard-line policies and a portrayal of himself as a culture warrior.

The contractor, along with another woman and two men, spent the afternoon walking around the church trying to recruit migrants like María to board a charter flight to California. María and other migrants said the contractors did not identify themselves beyond saying they were there to "help the migrants."

Over two days, the contractors managed to recruit 16 migrants for a flight June 2 and 20 for a flight June 5 -- whom they drove two hours west to a small airport in New Mexico for the trips to Sacramento.

Of course, as the pleading of its GOP legislators reveals, Florida needs those immigrants. 

Posted by at June 11, 2023 12:00 AM