An advocacy group told The Times on Wednesday that two groups of Venezuelan immigrants were flown separately to Sacramento last week by a Texas agency directing travelers to a non-existent immigration check-in site.
While the eight men, who crossed the border in Laredo, Texas, did not know why they were traveling to California, the move was not part of efforts by Republican governors in Texas and Florida to ship immigrants to liberal cities and states, according to Autumn Fall. Gonzalez, volunteer with NorCal Resist.
Instead, it appears that a shelter in Texas working with newly arrived immigrants has given them a ticket to Sacramento because their immigration papers indicate check-in with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices in that city, Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez said the papers also directed the men, who landed September 15 in separate groups, to what they were told would be a temporary housing shelter, but the address was a locked office building in downtown Sacramento.
The unexpected arrival of immigrants immediately raised fears that they might be targeted by agents of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis or Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who are relocating immigrants from their states.
A group of immigrants has filed a federal class action lawsuit against DeSantis, alleging that Venezuelans who traveled to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, were lured onto the planes on false pretenses. California Governor Gavin Newsom joined other Democratic governors in calling on the Justice Department to look into the incident.
Gonzalez, whose group provides services to immigrants and immigrant rights advocates, said that although the men who arrived in Sacramento were not part of the resettlement effort, advocates remain concerned about the misdirection of the check-in process.
“The problematic part [Customs and Border Protection] “Put a non-existent shelter address on their documents as a place they need to come to,” Gonzalez said, noting that neither of the men had any connections or resources in the city.
Gonzalez said the men refuse to speak to the media.
Gonzalez added that NorCal’s resistance and volunteers were able to provide the migrants with a place to stay and groceries. Some of the group have already volunteered to move furniture to a Syrian refugee family. Another non-profit group stepped in to organize a men’s soccer match.
She said some are now considering settling in Sacramento.
Officials at the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement did not respond to questions about why immigrants were given places to check-in far from their final destinations. The men who arrived in California intended to travel to New York, Florida, or Utah.
However, for years lawyers have highlighted cases where those seeking immigration have been directed to report to remote locations or give wrong addresses, which can be critical for asylum seekers who have to check in with ICE.
In one case documented by BuzzFeed News, a Honduran national had his physical address listed as “Facebook” by a Border Patrol officer. WNBC New York reported in August that some immigrants were given fake addresses for supposed New York shelters, such as “111 Unknown.” In two cases, an officer was shown signing papers with an emoji of a face with one eye closed and tongue sticking out.
Recent actions by Abbott and DeSantis have strengthened partnerships in communities willing to help immigrants, said Marisa Limon Garza, executive director of Las Americas Group, an El Paso-based nonprofit advocacy group.
She said California and Boston helped displaced Venezuelans, avoiding the political theater that elected officials were trying to muster.
Garza said the support these migrants found reminded her of how Ukrainian refugees were welcomed by neighboring countries when the Russian invasion began.
“This is how we work every day on the southern border,” Garza said. “I have no doubt in my mind that there are similar people in Sacramento and Chicago. All of these areas are doing the same thing to show that someone can be welcomed even though they may not have been fully informed when they were on this trip.”
She said El Paso is a permanent waypoint for immigrants entering the United States. In previous years, immigrants from other Central and South American countries typically spent a few days in the city before contacting relatives they could sponsor to stay in the country legally. But this is not the case for many Venezuelans, who usually do not have connections in the United States
This disparity causes a backlog of work and highlights stark problems facing the broader immigration system, Garza said.
She also said that cities and states that receive immigrants will need federal assistance if they are asked to continue their humanitarian assistance.
“This goes back to [Biden] “The administration and Congress because the good people of Sacramento do what I imagine an incredible amount of work and are happy to do so,” Garza said. “They will need support from the federal government to discover solutions that will make sense for society in the long term.”