Gavin Newsom and Rob Bonta’s Response to Migrant Crisis: A Year Later

Last year, California Governor Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Rob Bonta were quick to condemn Florida officials for transporting 36 Latin American migrants from a Texas migrant center to Sacramento under false pretenses of housing and employment. Newsom’s strong words on social media and Bonta’s public statements suggested severe legal actions against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and his state-funded relocation program. Despite the initial outcry and promises of investigations, little progress has been made to address the migrants’ plight or hold Florida accountable.

The Initial Outcry and Promises

In June 2023, Newsom and Bonta made headlines with their vehement responses to the relocation of migrants to California. Newsom’s tweet, which included a section of the California penal code on kidnapping, targeted DeSantis directly. Bonta echoed these sentiments, describing the Florida program as a demonstration of the worst in American behavior. Both leaders vowed to investigate the incident thoroughly and hinted at possible criminal charges against DeSantis and his team.

Gavin Newsom Lack of Progress and Silence

Over a year later, the promised investigations have yielded no tangible results. The Attorney General’s office has remained silent on the matter, and Newsom has not publicly addressed the migrants’ situation since a debate last November. Despite initial support, state, county, and city governments have largely abandoned the issue, leaving community organizations to shoulder the burden.

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Community leaders and volunteers have continued to support the migrants, despite the waning governmental involvement. Gabby Trejo, executive director for Sacramento Area Congregations Together, noted that while the initial response was robust, it quickly diminished, leaving the community in a prolonged state of crisis.

Legal and Administrative Challenges

The morning after the migrants’ arrival, Newsom and Bonta met with them at South Sacramento Christian Center. The migrants shared their harrowing journeys from Venezuela to Texas, where they were deceived with false promises. Documents later confirmed that the travel was organized by the Florida Division of Emergency Management and Vertol Systems Co., mirroring tactics used by Republican governors to relocate migrants to Democrat-led regions.

Legal experts questioned the feasibility of pursuing kidnapping charges against DeSantis. Bonta filed public records requests and sought a federal investigation, but no significant legal actions have followed. Immigration attorney Marcus Tang highlighted the need for U visas for the migrants, which offer protections and benefits to crime victims cooperating with law enforcement. Despite the clear indications of potential criminal activity, Bonta’s office has not facilitated the U visa certification process.

Comparative Case: Martha’s Vineyard Incident

The response to the Sacramento incident stands in stark contrast to the handling of a similar case in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. Following the September 2022 incident, Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar quickly issued U visa certifications for the migrants involved, leading to temporary work permits and deportation protections for some.

In Sacramento, no migrants have received such certifications. Bonta’s office maintains that requests are evaluated individually, not as a group. This stance has frustrated community advocates and legal representatives who argue that the migrants deserve recognition and support for the injustices they suffered.

Continued Advocacy and Legal Efforts

Local immigration attorneys Kishwer Vikaas and Patrick Gihana are renewing efforts to secure U visas for the remaining migrants. They aim to specify requests for those still in Sacramento, given that two-thirds of the original group have since left the area. During a recent meeting, Vikaas and Gihana explained the U visa process and encouraged patience among the migrants.

The community’s frustration is palpable, with many feeling abandoned by the promises made by state officials. Jorge Gil Laguna, a 34-year-old Venezuelan migrant, succinctly summarized the sentiment: “We were lied to.” The legal representatives stress that they are not seeking preferential treatment but merely asking for fair recognition and support for the migrants as crime victims.


The lack of follow-through from Newsom and Bonta on their initial promises has left the migrants in a precarious situation, relying on community organizations and legal advocates for support. The case highlights the challenges and inconsistencies in addressing migrant crises and the need for sustained governmental commitment to uphold justice and support for vulnerable populations.

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