TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The Florida Division of Emergency Management confirmed to 10 Tampa Bay Tuesday, they were responsible for relocating three dozen migrants on two separate flights from El Paso, Texas to Sacramento, California over the past few days.
The agency says the relocation efforts were voluntary and sent along a video that shows what appears to be individuals filling out forms and being excited to go to California.
"As you can see from this video, Florida's voluntary relocation is precisely that – voluntary," Amelia Johnson, the Deputy Director of Communications & External Affairs, said. "Through verbal and written consent, these volunteers indicated they wanted to go to California."
“A contractor was present and ensured they made it safely to a 3rd-party NGO. The specific NGO, Catholic Charities, is used and funded by the federal government.”
California officials were caught off guard when migrants showed up on the steps of a church in Sacramento, and placed the blame on Florida—after they say migrants had letters indicating they were from a Florida program.
“It’s very strange at best, it's potentially illegal, it could violate criminal laws, it could violate civil laws,” California Attorney General Rob Bonta (D) said.
This latest information comes as a district attorney in Texas is weighing whether to pursue criminal charges related to Florida migrant flights that transported nearly 50 migrants from San Antonio, Texas, to Martha’s Vineyard in September.
Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salzar in Texas opened an investigation into the incident in September when Florida paid contractors to fly migrants from the southern border to other areas of the U.S., as part of the state’s controversial migrant relocation program.
It's unclear who the sheriff is seeking charges against, but in a statement last fall, the sheriff’s office said, "Only those who were physically in our jurisdiction at the time of the offense are considered suspects."
Adding in an updated statement, the agency said, "The charge filed is unlawful restraint and several accounts were filed, both misdemeanor and felony."
Ultimately, it's up to the local district attorney whether to pursue those charges, who released a statement Tuesday.
"The complaint will undergo our normal and meticulous intake review," Bexar County Criminal District Attorney Joe D. Gonzales said in a statement. "The process of determining whether enough evidence exists to charge anyone with a crime and convince a jury of Bexar County citizens 'beyond a reasonable doubt' that a crime has been committed may be lengthy and labor-intensive under the best of circumstances."
"If a review of the facts reveal that a felony offense has been committed, we will present that case to a grand jury for their deliberation," Gonzales added.
DeSantis just signed a bill a few weeks ago which provides $12 million to move migrants from anywhere in the US — not just Florida — to anywhere in the country.