Eight Venezuelan migrants were flown from Texas to Sacramento last week with little money – some without shoes – and the men have no idea why they were sent or who paid for the flights, said an advocacy group.
The men, who crossed the border at Laredo, Texas, intended to travel to New York, Florida or Utah and said they did not know why they were sent to California, where none of them had no contacts or prospects.
Three migrants landed Thursday morning in Sacramento, then walked about 20 miles to an address listed on U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement documents where they were told they would find shelter. Instead, the men arrived at a closed office building in downtown Sacramento, said Autumn Gonzalez, a volunteer with NorCal Resist, which provides migrant services and advocates for immigrant rights.
“It’s never happened to us before that people randomly show up, needing housing or assistance,” Gonzalez said.
A security guard in the closed building directed the migrants to a food bank, where they were able to obtain food and clothing. NorCal Resist was then contacted to see if they could help the men.
“They said, ‘They don’t have food or money, they don’t know anyone here. Can you help them?’ Gonzalez said the food bank told him.
She added of the men, “They didn’t ask to come to Sacramento.”
On Friday, NorCal Resist was contacted about a second group of five men who landed Thursday night and slept in a park. The men went to the same address, to find the same doors closed.
Gonzalez believes the men were given the address because the building houses offices for Catholic Charities, a group that helps immigrants but does not provide services there.
Gonzalez said the eight men, between the ages of 20 and 40, were seeking asylum in the United States.
NorCal Resist provided the men with hotel rooms and helped them consult with an immigration lawyer.
“We are more than happy to help and locate them,” she said.
The eight migrants had planned to travel to other parts of the country where they were told about Venezuelan communities, but plan to stay in the region. Some have volunteered their time to NorCal Resist, helping the group move furniture and other donations to a Syrian refugee family.
Their documents say they must report to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Sacramento, but not all of the men knew why.
“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” Gonzalez said.
NorCal Resist often coordinates with immigration officials and other groups in Texas if migrants are sent to the area and need assistance. Groups usually coordinate resources, shelters and contacts. None of that happened this time.
“I thought it must have been a mistake,” she said.
The incident comes as the Republican governors of Florida and Texas have transported and airlifted immigrants to other locations in the United States. Migrants were unknowingly flown to New York, Vice President Kamala Harris’ home in Washington, D.C., and Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, in what critics have called a political stunt to highlight immigration at the expense of a vulnerable group of people.
Speaking of these incidents, Governor Ron DeSantis says Florida is “not a sanctuary state” and “would help facilitate that transportation to get you to greener pastures.” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said that by transporting migrants, “Texas is bringing the border into their backyard to relieve our overwhelmed communities.”
Abbott’s office denied any involvement in the eight migrants who ended up in Sacramento. A spokesperson said the governor’s office was transporting migrants to New York, Washington and Chicago.
DeSantis’ office did not immediately return requests for comment on whether his office was involved in transporting migrants to Sacramento.