Recruiters for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis have set their sights on the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in the Texas border city of El Paso for a taxpayer-funded ride they can take. Private planes bring asylum-seekers to California’s capital from bustling immigrant shelters.
Whether intentional or not, the envoy of Florida’s Catholic governor and Republican presidential candidate has incorporated elements of his own religion into his latest immigration move, drawing sharp criticism from El Paso’s Catholic bishop.
“Without going into details politics From that, it seems clear that they’re being used not out of concern for immigrants, but to make a political point of view,” Bishop Mark Seitz told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
Seitz said many immigrants who arrive in the U.S. are unaware of geography, including distances between cities and states, and are just in a hurry to leave.
“If you’re trying to help someone who needs to get somewhere where they have a sponsor or a job or something like that, that’s a commendable act,” Seitz said. Actions based on political views are reprehensible. It is taking away people who have lost everything – everything. They have nothing, not even a country they can really call their own, because they had to flee that country. Then use them for your own purposes: this is morally unacceptable. “
DeSantis acknowledged that Florida paid for a charter flight last Friday and Monday to transport 36 mostly Venezuelan migrants from Republican-led Texas to Sacramento. The first group dropped off in front of the Roman Catholic parish in Sacramento, which is also the headquarters of Catholic Charities, apparently without warning. Local advocates and officials met them at the airport after learning of the second group’s arrival.
The governor said they went voluntarily — a claim that has been disputed by some immigration advocates. He also said they signed a waiver for it and that California, with its welcome policy, effectively invited them.
“I think the borders should be closed. I don’t think we should have that. But if there’s an open border policy, then I think the sanctuary jurisdictions should be the ones that have to take on that,” DeSantis said in Arizona on Wednesday. said at an event with law enforcement officials in Sierra Vista.
Asked about the bishop’s criticism, DeSantis spokesman Jeremy Redfern said the governor’s previous comments “are independent.”
In May, DeSantis signed a law allocating up to $12 million for immigration flights, such as the two flights Florida funded last year from San Antonio to the expensive Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.
References to the Martha’s Vineyard flight have become a staple of President DeSantis’s deathbed speeches and have often drawn rapturous applause from Republican primary voters. The Sacramento flight is part of a broader effort by some Republican-led states to send immigrants to parts of the country that lean toward Democrats, including New York, Washington, D.C. and Chicago.
President Joe Biden is also Catholic and, like DeSantis, has clashed with the bishop, despite issues involving LGBTQ rights and abortion in Biden’s case. In addition to immigration, DeSantis is at odds with the bishops over the death penalty, which the governor supports and the church does not.
Seitz, who chairs the immigration committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, served for a decade as bishop in heavily Catholic El Paso, which is on one of the busiest corridors of illegal border crossings. The town of Sacred Heart is centrally located just a few blocks from Mexico.
Imelda Maynard, director of legal services for Diocesan Migrant & Refugee Services Inc., said two men and a woman who worked for the Florida state recruited migrants outside the town of Sacred Heart with the promise of California offers jobs and housing. .
Menard said a Venezuelan man said he was lured to a remote motel for three days with his wife and four children. After being told he would have to fly alone and that the rest of his family would be on another flight because there wasn’t enough room for them to go together, he became suspicious and backed out.
The man didn’t know where the motel was, but Maynard suspected it was in Deming, New Mexico, where the charter flight flew to Sacramento. The family hitchhiked back to Sacred Heart Town.
Maynard said a passenger on the first flight called the Venezuelan immigrant and said he had been scammed.
“Don’t come. It’s a scam. There are no jobs, no room and board. They just dumped us in the middle of nowhere in this church and no one knew what happened,” the Venezuelan immigrant recalled being told.
The Sacred Heart is a well-known sanctuary, especially among Venezuelans. It suggests that there are many Catholic charities along the southern border from San Diego to Brownsville, Texas, that provide food, showers, housing and transportation to migrants seeking rest before heading to their final destination. U.S..
It’s unclear if Sacred Heart is the only place DeSantis’ recruiters are targeting. Maynard said she didn’t know anyone else.
Standing outside a shelter promising jobs that don’t exist is “disgusting,” Maynard said. California Gov. Gavin Newsom, DeSantis’ perennial Democratic rival, suggested it could be criminal.
“It’s really inhumane for someone to play with you in this way because no one takes into account that these are human beings and they’re being played with,” Maynard said.
DeSantis’ office stressed that its contractors had safely transported the migrants to Sacramento Catholic Charities in the California diocese. The Sacramento charity did not respond to The Associated Press’ request for comment.
Seitz applauded Catholic charities for their response.
“I’ve been encouraged by the way I’ve seen people being received here at the border, and I’ve heard reports of the way Catholic charities have received them in Sacramento,” he said. “Catholic charities were not informed, but they came forward and accepted them, which is great news in all of this.”