Protesters Want Airline Kicked Out of San Marcos for Flying Migrants for DeSantis

California governor says the operation could be kidnapping

Central Texas airline Berry Aviation flew migrants to California for Gov. Ron DeSantis (Image by Zeke Barbaro / Getty Images)

So far, the Central Texas airline that flew migrants to California as part of a publicity stunt by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis hasn’t faced consequences.

On Sunday, the criminal justice nonprofit Mano Amiga led a protest of Berry Aviation at the San Marcos Regional Airport, demanding that the company that manages the airport revoke the airline’s license to operate.

Berry Aviation is under investigation by California Attorney General Rob Bonta for suspected kidnapping after flying undocumented asylum seekers to Sacramento. Bonta reported in June that he had met with migrants who said they were tricked into boarding a pair of Berry Aviation planes in El Paso, after being offered jobs and housing. They were flown to Sacramento and abandoned with no prior notice at the doorstep of the city’s Roman Catholic Diocese. A spokesperson from Berry Aviation declined our request for comment.

Mano Amiga’s immigration coordinator, Nataly Avendano, said the airline has remained silent since the group began drawing attention to the controversy in early September. “We have demanded an apology and for them to say publicly that they were going to stop participating in these migrant flights, but we haven’t heard anything so far,” Avendano said.

Members of the Immigrant Legal Defense Center and Texas Civil Rights Project spoke at the protest, describing the immigrant flights as a political stunt by DeSantis, after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott gained attention last year by busing 20,000 immigrants to Washington D.C., Chicago, and other northern cities. “In April 2022, Abbott began busing immigrants, wasting taxpayer dollars to score political points instead of doing his damn job and fixing the power grid,” said Jennifer Canales of ILDC. “Soon after, the spineless DeSantis began his own version of the busing because he too wanted to play political chess with the lives of human beings.”

California Gov. Gavin Newsom suggested in June that the flights may constitute kidnapping. Attorney General Bonta has filed public information requests demanding that DeSantis release communications between himself and Berry Aviation, as well as any orders he may have given the airline. A San Marcos city spokesperson told Caldwell/Hays Examiner reporter Jordan Buckley (a former member of Mano Amiga) that the city has identified no specific violation by Berry Aviation that would allow it to terminate their lease with the airport but that officials are continuing to monitor the situation.

Roberto Lopez of Texas Civil Rights Project praised Mano Amiga for continuing to show up at protests like the one on Sunday. “These seemingly innocuous buildings behind us are part of the immigration process, part of the violence, part of what’s keeping up the global apartheid, so it’s badass that everyone is here,” he said. “Fuck these people. We deserve better.”

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