SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat who has publicly feuded with Florida's Gov. Ron DeSantis and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott over their conservative policies, on Thursday asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate whether transporting migrants across state lines as "political props" broke the law.
"Transporting families, including children, across state lines under false pretenses is morally reprehensible, but it may also be illegal," Newsom wrote in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland that he also posted on his Twitter account.
Without mentioning DeSantis or Abbot by name, Newsom suggested the federal government could bring charges of kidnapping and "civil rights conspiracy" because the migrants were targeted because of their national origin.
The governors of Texas and Arizona have sent thousands of migrants on buses to New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C., in recent months. But the latest surprise moves - which included two flights to Martha's Vineyard Wednesday paid for by Florida - reached a new level of political theater that critics derided as inhumane.
Upon arrival in Martha's Vineyard, where former President Barack Obama has a home, the migrants who are predominantly from Venezuela were provided with meals, shelter, health care and information about where to find work.
The vacation island south of Boston, whose year-round residents include many blue-collar workers, appeared to absorb the dozens of arrivals without a major hitch.
Elizabeth Folcarelli, chief executive of the nonprofit Martha's Vineyard Community Services, was wrapping up work when she saw 48 Venezuelans with luggage and backpacks approach her office. They carried red folders with brochures for her organization.
"They were told that they would have a job. and they would have housing," said Folcarelli, who described the scramble for shelter as a "huge challenge."
Migrants played soccer and hung out in small groups on the porch of their temporary shelter Thursday while meeting visiting attorneys who gave free advice and other service providers.
Well-wishers dropped off donations, and volunteers signed up to provide whatever help the could offer. There were no signs of protest.
The president of the League of United Latin American Citizens, Domingo Garcia, said that some of the migrants sent on buses from Texas to Washington, D.C. were "tricked" - an allegation that The Associated Press has not confirmed and that officials in Texas and Arizona have denied.
DeSantis said the flights to Martha's Vineyard were part of an effort to "transport illegal immigrants to sanctuary destinations." The Florida Legislature has earmarked $12 million to transport "unauthorized aliens" out of state.
DeSantis' office didn't answer questions about where migrants boarded planes and how they were coaxed into making the trip.
Massachusetts state Sen. Julian Cyr told The Vineyard Gazette that one plane originated in San Antonio, raising questions about whether migrants ever set foot in Florida. Flight tracking data shows a flight originated in San Antonio, stopped in Crestview, Florida, and Charlotte, North Carolina, before landing in Martha's Vineyard.
The two buses of migrants from Texas that arrived early Thursday outside Harris' residence at the United States Naval Observatory carried more than 100 migrants from Colombia, Cuba, Guyana, Nicaragua, Panama and Venezuela.
"The Biden-Harris administration continues ignoring and denying the historic crisis at our southern border, which has endangered and overwhelmed Texas communities for almost two years," said Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who has poured billions of taxpayer dollars into making border security a signature issue.