California Dreaming: Newsom’s Kidnapping Claim Against DeSantis is Long on Politics and Short on the Law


Below is my column in The Messenger on the call of Gov. Gavin Newsom (D., Cal.) for kidnapping charges against Gov. Ron DeSantis (R., Fla.) for shipping undocumented migrants to California. It is a curious call for a governor to make after he ran ads in Florida calling on people to “join us in California.”

Here is the column:

“Kidnapping charges?” That hopeful tweet from Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-Calif.) came across as the ultimate example of California dreaming, as Newsom and a chorus of politicians and pundits called for Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) to be charged criminally for transporting 36 people to Sacramento. California Attorney General Rob Bonta (D) chimed in, declaring the flight from Florida might be “State-sanctioned kidnapping.”

Newsom added in the tweet: “You small, pathetic man. This isn’t Martha’s Vineyard.”

The problem, however, is that this is just like the transport of migrants to Martha’s Vineyard in September 2022, which a number of Democratic leaders and legal experts insisted was also a clear case of kidnapping and human trafficking.

Newsom previously asked the U.S. Justice Department to investigate whether the flights are violations of the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act — a ridiculous legal suggestion. To great acclaim, Rachael Rollins, then the U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, announced that she was taking a look, “long and hard,” at potential charges.

Then nothing happened — except that Rollins herself was accused of wrongdoing and resigned in May, after the Justice Department refused to prosecute her.

Newsom cited the kidnapping statute but apparently failed to read it or the underlying cases. While there is a fair debate over the policy of relocation by states like Texas and Florida, the effort to use the criminal process as part of that political debate is … well, pathetic.

First, let’s look at the law. The California provision states that kidnapping involves someone who “abducts or takes by force or fraud any person contrary to the law of the place where that act is committed, and brings, sends, or conveys that person within the limits of this state.”

There is nothing unlawful about conveying individuals who are lawfully in the country pending their immigration hearings. Indeed, public interest groups and the federal government do so regularly, including late-night flights to various cities. Many migrants are released soon after capture, including some without a hearing date or court dates that are years in the future. They are then left to their own devices and destinations.

Moreover, it is not clear how transporting migrants who entered the country illegally to another state is a violation of law. If so, there would be a host of local Democratic and federal officials who could be charged on that basis. New York City recently sent migrants to other cities without their permission or prior notice; Democratic leaders in El Paso, Texas, have also arranged such transports.

None of these were denounced as state-sanctioned kidnapping — because they weren’t.

To drive home the point, Florida released a video showing migrants dancing to music on a bus, signing waivers, and smiling as they posed for photos on a plane.

Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) communications director Alecia Collins has publicly declared that each of these migrants gave “verbal and written consent … to go to California.”

California officials insisted that the consent must have been fraudulent, which seems a strange argument that the state itself is not an inducement.

There are good reasons why migrants might want to go to California, beyond just its beautiful weather and lifestyle. Newsom and other leaders have passed some of the nation’s most generous benefits for undocumented persons. In 2017, California declared itself a “sanctuary state” for undocumented migrants; Sacramento declared itself a “sanctuary city.” This all was enormously popular — until migrants actually began to appear in large numbers.

Obviously, if it can be shown that migrants were, say, promised a time-share in Malibu or other specific inducements by Florida officials, there might be viable claims of fraud. However, pitching the opportunities and protections of California as a sanctuary state is found on the state’s own websites. And Newsom has paid money for ads in both Texas and Florida, asking everyone living there to come “join us in California.”

Much of the media is reporting the pledge for a criminal investigation without noting the same allegations were made in the Martha’s Vineyard case and the glaring absence of criminal charges over that previous transport. While civil litigation is ongoing, the supposedly clear criminal charges have not been brought by Democratic prosecutors clearly motivated to do so. The reason is that these claims are made for cable news, not courts of law.

The sheriff in Bexar County, Texas, has reportedly submitted the results of an investigation to local prosecutors after the Martha’s Vineyard transport last year. It reportedly includes claims of felony and misdemeanor charges of unlawful restraint, but didn’t name individual suspects. Local prosecutors may yield to temptation in moving a case forward, but they are unlikely to get very far absent some new evidence that migrants were sent to Cape Cod or California against their will.

Newsom, Bonta and other politicians are suggesting that migrants could come to California on their own but that it is a crime to transport them at state expense. So, when public interest and migrant-assistance groups raise money to transport migrants, are they also kidnappers?

Bonta appears ready to dismiss the verbal and written waivers of these migrants as meaningless because, he says, “it was false. You can’t consent based on deception.”

Yet, given California’s ample package of benefits for undocumented migrants — ranging from free college to driver’s licensescash assistance and food stamps — it was no deception for Florida to highlight the Golden State’s status as a sanctuary state. It also is why it is perfectly rationale for migrants to want to go to the state.

Unless information to the contrary arises, these adults made the decision to enter the United States, and they can choose to go to any U.S. state once they are released by the federal government. That may be the meaning of opportunity to some, or the definition of insanity to others — but it is no kidnapping.

Jonathan Turley, an attorney, constitutional law scholar and legal analyst, is the Shapiro Chair for Public Interest Law at The George Washington University Law School.

47 thoughts on “California Dreaming: Newsom’s Kidnapping Claim Against DeSantis is Long on Politics and Short on the Law”

  1. “Goofy J. Paul Getty” Gavin Newsom.

    A self-made man of accomplishment.

    Newsom was born in San Francisco, California, to Tessa Thomas (née Menzies) and William Alfred Newsom III, a state appeals court judge and attorney for Getty Oil. He is a fourth-generation San Franciscan. One of Newsom’s maternal great-grandfathers, Scotsman Thomas Addis, was a pioneer scientist in the field of nephrology and a professor of medicine at Stanford University. Newsom is the second cousin, twice removed, of musician Joanna Newsom.[10] Newsom’s aunt was married to Ron Pelosi, the brother-in-law of then Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi.[11]

    Newsom and his investors created the company PlumpJack Associates L.P. on May 14, 1991. The group started the PlumpJack Winery in 1992 with the financial help[18] of his family friend Gordon Getty. PlumpJack was the name of an opera written by Getty, who invested in 10 of Newsom’s 11 businesses.[11] Getty told the San Francisco Chronicle that he treated Newsom like a son and invested in his first business venture because of that relationship. According to Getty, later business investments were because of “the success of the first”.[11]

    – Wiki

    Gordon Peter Getty (born December 20, 1933) is an American businessman and classical music composer, the fourth child of oil tycoon J. Paul Getty.

    – Wiki

  2. Send the Boarder Refugees to Plymouth Rock, Plymouth Massachusetts.
    It was good enough for Immigrants in 1620, it good enough for Immigrants Today!
    And Keep sending them to Plymouth until somebody gets the memo in Washington D.C.,
    That They (The Immigrants) are not wanted here or elsewhere.,_Massachusetts

  3. Merrick Garland will be holding a press conference shortly to let the country know that he is “taking a hard look” at kidnapping charges for Governor DeSantis (or in the alternative maybe felonious mopery or inciting an insurrection). They can’t let this one go to waste !! Thank you, Jonathan, for an excellent article.

  4. Newsom’s California Breaming Moment MaMA’s and PAPA’s – made for Hollywood – talk tuff make threats Huff and Puff for the Cameras – with no legal basis. Still think Ron should higher boats and land them on the Beaches of Martha’s Vineyard at Obama home.

    1. Illegal aliens in Martha’s Vineyard violated Americans’ civil rights and were promptly deported.

  5. So let see if I have the straight.


    Gavin Newsome: Come to California, we are a sanctuary state and have great benefits and a financial package for you.

    They come and Florida is helping them get thee in large numbers….


    WAH WAH WAH! Your kidnapping these poor people and trafficking them into California!!!! You need to go to jail!


    Be careful for what you wish for.

  6. If any of the migrants can say that they are descendants of Spanish-owned slaves, would they qualify for reparations in California? The Spanish governed California for a time when slavery existed in the Western hemisphere, so it seems logical their slave descendants would have a claim against those people who have benefited from their slavery, including African- Americans.

  7. This all seemed a rather bizarre idea proposed by Newsom. Every public statement he makes is in support of more people coming to California, such that it was declared a sanctuary state against federal law enforcement. But when three dozen people arrive there from another state, instead of by crossing the border between Mexico and his state, it suddenly becomes an illegal act in his eyes.

    His actions were an act of political posturing that was contradicted by his actions in this kerfuffle with Gov DeSantis.

  8. Please, please, please run for POTUS, Gavin!!! Stupidity and incompetence are not obstacles! Just ask Kamala!
    Given Joe’s age and functionality, there is great fear that there will soon be an absolute shortage dumb ideas, poorly thought out plans and mendacity. Destiny calls you!

  9. 24/7/365 Clown Show. Fitting it comes from the State where movies are made. Put your sanctuary city money where your mouth is. Pathetic. Only thing worse is the propaganda lapdog media. And don’t come to Florida if you are a Dem. We like our freedoms.

  10. In one way Newsome is a rather cagey fellow. He is in control of a state that by every measure is failing. Newsome is just proving to his friends in Washington that if he is elected to the Senate that he will be the puppet boy for the Democratic party. You cant fault him for wanting to get the hell out of Dodge as fast as he can as more hell breaks loose in California. He’s just serving himself rather than serving the citizens of California. That there boy may be stupid but he ain’t dumb.

    1. TiT,
      I cannot believe how he thinks he can run on his so-called success as the gov of CA.
      If by some crazy chance that he is the Democrat presidential candidate, he will want to turn the rest of the US into a cesspool like CA.

  11. ALL lawyers lose credibility and respect when the likes of attorneys general (Bonta) or U.S. attorneys (Rachel Rollins) engage in political/partisan antics (to much fanfare) such as this. Bravo to the good professor Turley, who calls them as he sees them and doesn’t take political sides when he sees improper or partisan conduct. We won’t find this angle reported in/on MSM.

  12. Just a heads up for trump supporters that live in a alternative reality, Turley also wrote another column in The Messenger writing that trump is in serious trouble. But so far, nothing here on his blog, one has to wonder why.

      1. I would suggest that neither you nor I have any insight into the reasons behind their departure. Indeed, they issued very positive statements about representing Trump–something not required by either law or ethics.
        “’It has been an honor to have spent the last year defending him, and we know he will be vindicated in his battle against the Biden Administration’s partisan weaponization of the American justice system,’ the attorneys said.”

      2. Oh boy. I was wondering what happened to the Democrat Toad, oh, I mean Troll.

    1. You couldn’t wait to spew your hatred for Trump. I bet when you aren’t living in your mother’s basement you spend your time yelling at old white ladies. TDS much?

  13. Send all undocumented immigrants to California. The experience in Florida and other States is that every 1% increase in undocumented immigrants the homicide rate goes up 3.6%.

  14. You nail it to the wall, Jonathan: “It is a curious call for a governor to make after he ran ads in Florida calling on people to ‘join us in California.’” I doubt that Gavin Newsom has ever thought anything out farther than a single step at a time. I don’t think he has the mental discipline to avoid reacting before he thinks about what he’s saying.

    1. Good points Yordie. Being from San Diego, Newsom is only interested in hairspray sales, combs, and any reflective surface so he can see how much his crowned teeth shine…

  15. More examples of the two-tier “justice” system in the U.S. under the Biden administration and Democrat bureaucracy: One set of laws for Democrats, and a completely different set for Republicans. How do those who vote for democrats not see the blatant ongoing attacks on “our” democracy, on civil rights, and liberty?

  16. Gov. Newsom is fast becoming Gov. Nuisance. From this fake kidnapping threat to his proposed anti-gun constitutional amendment, it’s clear the guy is grandstanding because he’s desperate for media attention. It’s a short trip from Sacramento to Hollywood, where he’d no doubt be a happier person.

  17. Once again a Democrat is calling for the arrest of a potential opponent for doing exactly what another Democrat (Biden) is doing. Biden has been shipping illegals all over the country, Mayor Adams in NY has been shipping illegals all over his state, the governor of TX (I know, he is a Republican, but he isn’t a presidential contender) has been shipping illegals all over the country, and yet not one call for a “kidnapping” charge. Boy, the Democrats really are fascist.

      1. You are assuming that matters. They will just put him in at the last second. The press will act amazed at how it would never have seemed possible that Newson won. His eight year reign will see the SCOTUS turn and then it is over folks as the indoctrinated youth infect the courts like a cancer.

        1. I would prefer to see Ron DeSantis stay in Florida as the successful governor he has shown to be, unlike Newsom. But it appears that DeSantis is bent on running for governor as a former US Naval Officer of 15 yrs who saw combat in Iraq advising the SEALS. If true, then we can expect to see a clash of titans: Deep State/DNC/MSM vs DeSantis/USA. Should be interesting to see who is left standing after the blood loss across the country.

          Maybe I’m wrong, and perhaps the US needs a President who is a trained military officer who fought the enemy like George Washington?

          Strange times to live in the United States.

          During the surge, DeSantis served as a senior legal adviser to the SEAL who commanded Special Operations Task Force-West in Fallujah, Navy Capt. Dane Thorleifson….DeSantis was responsible for helping ensure that the missions of Navy SEALs and Army Green Berets in that wide swath of the Western Euphrates River Valley were planned according to the rule of law and that captured detainees were humanely treated, said his commander at the time. “He did a phenomenal job,” Thorleifson, 55, said of DeSantis in a Herald/Times interview. “It was a pretty complex time, with Iraqi sovereignty starting to take hold.”It was up to DeSantis, the lone lawyer with the Judge Advocate General Corps (JAG), to not only assure that the men were treated humanely and interrogated in accordance with the Geneva Conventions and U.S. military regulations, but to make sure that, when warranted, they were handed off to the proper legal authorities in Iraq for prosecution in that country’s nascent judicial system, Thorleifson said.

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