An advocacy group said eight Venezuelan immigrants were flown last week from Texas to Sacramento with little cash – some without shoes – and the men had no idea why they were sent or who paid for the trips.
The men, who had crossed the border in Laredo, Texas, had intended to travel to New York, Florida or Utah, and said they were confused about why they were sent to California, since none of them had connections or prospects.
Three immigrants arrived Thursday morning in Sacramento, then walked 20 miles to an address listed on US 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 services to immigrants and immigrant rights advocates.
“It never occurred to us that people would randomly show up, need housing or help,” Gonzalez said.
One of the guards of the locked building directed the migrants to the food bank, where they were able to get food and clothes. Then NorCal Resist was contacted to see if it could help the men.
Gonzalez said the food bank told her, “They said, ‘They don’t have food, they don’t have money, they don’t know anyone here, can you help them?'”
“They didn’t ask to come to Sacramento,” she added of the men.
On Friday, NorCal Resist was contacted about a second group of five men who landed Thursday night and slept in a park. The men walked to the same address, only to find the same locked doors.
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 at that location.
Gonzalez said the eight men, aged between their 20s and 40s, were seeking asylum in the United States.
NorCal Resist provided the men with hotel rooms and helped them consult an immigration attorney.
“We are more than happy to help them and put them in good shape,” she said.
The eight emigrants were planning to go to other parts of the country as they had been told about the Venezuelan communities, but they are considering staying in the area. Some have donated their time to NorCal Resist, to help the group move furniture and other donations to a Syrian refugee family.
Their papers state that they have to report to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices in Sacramento, but all the men were confused as to why.
“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” Gonzalez said.
NorCal Resist often coordinates with immigration officials and other groups in Texas if immigrants are sent to the area and need assistance. Groups usually coordinate resources, shelter, and communications. Nothing happened this time.
“I thought this was something wrong,” she said.
The incident comes at a time when Florida and Texas Republican governors are moving and relocating immigrants to other US locations. Immigrants were unknowingly taken to New York, the home of Vice President Kamala Harris in Washington, D.C., and Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, in what critics described as a political ploy to highlight immigration at the expense of a vulnerable group of people.
Speaking of those incidents, Governor Ron DeSantis Florida said “It is not a protected country” and will “help facilitate this transport to go to greener pastures.” By moving immigrants, Texas Governor Greg Abbott said, “Texas are bringing the frontiers into their backyard to relieve our overcrowded communities.”
Abbott’s office denied involvement in the case of the eight immigrants who ended up in Sacramento. A spokesperson for the governor said the governor’s office is moving immigrants to New York, Washington and Chicago.
DeSantis’ office did not immediately respond to requests for comment about whether his office was involved in moving immigrants to Sacramento.