Eight Venezuelan migrants were flown last week from Texas to Sacramento with little cash — some without shoes — and the men have no idea why they were sent or who paid for the flights, an advocacy group said.
The men, who crossed the border in Laredo, Texas, had intentions to travel to New York, Florida or Utah and said they were confused as to why they were sent to California, where none of them had contacts or prospects.
Three migrants landed Thursday morning in Sacramento, then walked about 20 miles to an address listed on U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement documentation where they were told they'd find a 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 migrants and advocates for immigrant rights.
"It's never happened to us before that people just randomly showed up, needing housing or assistance," Gonzalez said.
A security guard at the closed building pointed the migrants to a food bank, where they were able to get food and clothes. NorCal Resist was then contacted to see whether it could help the men.
"They said, 'They have no food, no money, they don't know anyone here. Can you help them?'" Gonzalez said the food bank told her.
She added of the men, "They didn't ask to come to Sacramento."
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 closed doors.
Gonzalez believes the men were given the address because the building houses offices for Catholic Charities, a group that aids immigrants but does not provide services at that location.
Gonzalez said the eight men, who were in their 20s to 40s, were seeking asylum in the U.S.
NorCal Resist provided the men with hotel rooms and helped them consult with an immigration attorney.
"We're more than happy to get them help and get them situated," she said.
The eight migrants had planned to go to other parts of the country where they were told about Venezuelan communities but are considering staying in the area. Some have donated their time to NorCal Resist, helping the group move furniture and other donations to a Syrian refugee family.
Their paperwork states that they have to report to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices in Sacramento, but all of the men were confused as to why.
"I've never seen something like this before," Gonzalez said.
NorCal Resist often coordinates with immigration officials and other groups in Texas if migrants are being sent to the area and need assistance. The groups usually coordinate resources, shelter and contacts. None of that occurred this time.
"I thought it must be some mistake," she said.
The incident comes as Republican governors in Florida and Texas have been busing and flying immigrants to other U.S. locations. Migrants have been unknowingly transported to New York, Vice President Kamala Harris' home in Washington, D.C., and Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts, in what critics have called a political stunt to highlight immigration at the expense of a vulnerable group of people.
Speaking about those incidents, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Florida is "not a sanctuary state" and would "help facilitate that transport for you to go to greener pastures." Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has said that by transporting migrants, "Texas is bringing the border to their backyard to relieve our overwhelmed communities."
Abbott's office denied involvement in the eight migrants who ended up in Sacramento. A spokesperson said the governor's office is busing migrants to New York, Washington and Chicago.
DeSantis' office did not immediately return requests for comment about whether its office was involved in flying the migrants to Sacramento.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.