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Sacramento Diocese, other nonprofits and the city provide outreach to migrants flown to California

Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, Calif., is seen in this 2019 file photo. The Diocese of Sacramento joined the city of Sacramento and outreach groups to welcome a group of 36 migrants who were flown to the California capital June 2 and 6, 2023, by officials in Florida. (OSV News photo/CNS file, Bob Roller)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (OSV News) — The Diocese of Sacramento joined the city of Sacramento and community organizations to welcome 36 migrants who were flown to the California capital June 2 and 6 on flights arranged by Florida officials.

“The outpouring of support for the 36 migrants who arrived in Sacramento in recent days has been inspiring and a reminder of our continued responsibility to protect human life and enhance human dignity through the works of mercy,” Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento said in a statement released June 8 by the California Catholic Conference.

“The urgency to respond was heard by Catholics and people of good will. We are thankful to our partner organizations who took up the holy work of hospitality, dedicating their time and resources to ensure that every migrant did not feel alone and abandoned,” he said in an earlier statement sent to OSV News June 5.

AP reported that “asylum-seekers mostly from Colombia and Venezuela” had been picked up “in El Paso, Texas, taken to New Mexico and then put on charter flights” to Sacramento.

“Catholics throughout the Sacramento area have been pivotal in providing for 36 immigrants who were flown halfway across the country to the Capitol city by chartered planes under the false guise that job opportunities awaited them,” the California Catholic Conference said June 8 in releasing the bishop’s statement.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta said Florida’s involvement in transporting the migrants could amount to “state-sanctioned kidnapping” and he was considering legal action over the flights.

But in a June 6 statement confirming that Florida had chartered the two flights, the state’s Division of Emergency Management included a video it said shows the migrants voluntarily signed paperwork to take the flights.

After the migrants’ arrival, California officials had speculated that Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis was behind the flights, because his administration had done that before, most notably in September 2022, when a group of migrants was flown to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, with DeSantis arguing his state was helping migrants who entered the U.S. illegally to get to a sanctuary state.

In a June 7 meeting with sheriffs in Arizona near the state’s border with Mexico, DeSantis, a Republican candidate for U.S. president and a Catholic, confirmed his state’s decision to arrange and pay for the flights for the migrants, according to AP. On May 10, he had signed an immigration bill into law that included $12 million to pay for such flights.

“I think the border should be closed. I don’t think we should have any of this,” DeSantis was quoted as telling the sheriffs. “But if there’s a policy to have an open border, then I think the sanctuary jurisdictions should be the ones that have to bear that.”

“Using human beings as political pawns is inexcusable,” Kathleen Domingo, executive director of the California Catholic Conference, said June 8. “Most migrants seek refuge in the U.S. to escape the human travesties in their own countries. Moving them from one side of the country to the other and, in some cases, away from the places they need to be to continue their immigration proceedings, is akin to trafficking. America is better than that.”

Among the groups assisting the migrants is Sacramento ACT, an interfaith community organization.

“Local leaders, state leaders, and the faith community have embraced our brothers and sisters,” the organization said in a statement posted on its website. “We are working hard to coordinate the support they need. It has been beautiful to see the response from the Sacramento and California community working together to help the group feel safe and welcome. We will continue to collaborate so that they are treated with dignity and respect.”

The Sacramento Bee daily newspaper reported that Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg met with the migrants the evening of June 6. “The only thing they want is the opportunity to give back, to work hard and to contribute to this country so that they can help their families,” he told reporters.

“In caring for and supporting our brothers and sisters in need,” Bishop Soto said, “we fulfill our obligations to be like the Good Samaritan who encounters the suffering with compassion, provides merciful care, and invites others to walk with the suffering on their journey to healing and wholeness.”

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