FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami/AP) – Leaders in Broward and Palm Beach Counties are preparing for an influx of hundreds of asylum-seeking migrants being sent by the Trump administration as the number of migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border grows rapidly.
“It’s not a good plan,” said Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw. “We think it’s a danger to this community.”
“We may have to declare a national emergency for Palm Beach County because it will spread us thin,” said Palm Beach County Mayor Mack Bernard.
Broward County Mayor Mark Bogen said he’s been told the plan is for the migrants to arrive at the Border Patrol station in Dania Beach, be given a date for an asylum hearing and let go into the community. He said the feds have made no arrangements for South Florida to handle the influx.
“They’re not providing any money, any shelter, any food,” said Bogen. “They’re not telling us anything about their health, about their criminal/non-criminal background. They’re not telling us anything whatsoever about these people.”
South Florida officials say the migrants will come from El Paso and the concern is where will they live, what will they eat, where will the children go to school. Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw says this plan turns the idea of protecting south Florida’s coastline upside down.
“We spend a lot of making sure people don’t come into South Florida illegally,” Bradshaw said. “Well, guess what? The federal government is now bringing people that have come into the country illegally to us that came across over in El Paso. I don’t think it’s right.”
Some are calling the Trump administration’s move a ploy to get support for the President’s immigration policies. Democratic South Florida Congresswoman Frederica Wilson said in a statement:
“Voters won’t like this attempt to manufacture crises in our communities and drain already strained resources now will they forget it when they head to the polls next year. Building encampments on the grounds of his beloved Mar-a-Lago, however, is something they likely can get behind.”
But the reality of thousands of undocumented migrants arriving in Broward and Palm Beach counties has leaders scrambling.
“We’re meeting with charities, non-governmental organizations,” Bogen said. “We have to weeks to try and help these people.”
The county plans to reach out to charities, non-profits, and businesses for help.
CBS4’s Jim DeFede spoke to Bogen on Thursday. Bogen said that he was told by Sheriff Gregory Tony that the regional office of Border Patrol contacted his office and the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office. The Border Patrol told sheriff offices that in the next two weeks they would be transferring two planeloads of 135 immigrants from the border a week, half will go to Broward, the other half to Palm Beach. They will be processed by Border Patrol and then released into the community.
Broward County is not a sanctuary city and the Florida Senate recently passed a controversial bill banning such cities in the state. President Trump has threatened to send people who illegally cross the border to communities that are considered immigrant friendly.
Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw said he was notified of the plans by the Miami-based office of the U.S. Border Patrol, and that a total of 1,000 people per month would be brought to the two counties from the El Paso, Texas, area. He said immigrant parents and children would be processed in both Florida counties, given a notice to appear in court and then released into the community.
The federal government has run out of space to process the thousands of immigrants who have been arriving at the border, forcing them to fly migrants to Border Patrol facilities in other locations that have room.
The migrants are typically processed, released and given a court date in a city where they plan to reside, often with family members. Once the immigrants are released, nonprofit organizations in other cities have been stepping in to provide meals and bus tickets to their destinations.
U.S. authorities have already been using buses and aircraft to move migrants to cities both on and away from the border, including Phoenix; Albuquerque, New Mexico; San Antonio and Colorado.
Despite the practice being widespread amid the recent surge of immigrants, Florida leaders from both parties reacted with alarm at the development and put the blame on the Trump administration.
Bogen warned that the influx would strain the county’s social services and be harmful for immigrants stranded without money, housing or knowledge of the city. He said officials are reaching out to nonprofits and businesses to find resources and other support.
“If the President will not provide us with financial assistance to house and feed these people, he will be creating a homeless encampment,” Bogen said. “I would suggest that we bring them to the Trump hotels and ask the President to open his heart and home as well.”
Democratic Florida Congressman Ted Deutch said he was unable to get federal officials to clarify the Florida plans. He urged the Customs and Border Protection agency to brief Congress on the situation and what help the federal government would provide.
Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, after saying he’d been briefed by the Palm Beach County sheriff, wrote a letter to the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Kevin McAleenan, urging him not to transport any undocumented migrants to Florida before clarifying the arrangements and conferring with local officials on their needs to receive the influx.
Officials at U.S. Border Patrol offices in Miami and Washington did not immediately return phone calls and emails seeking comment.
In April alone, the Border Patrol apprehended nearly 99,000 people for crossing illegally, with more than two-thirds being unaccompanied children and adults traveling with children. There is also a massive backlog of people on the Mexican side waiting for months for their chance to apply for asylum, including thousands of Cubans in Ciudad Juarez.
President Donald Trump suggested last month he was considering releasing immigrants into so-called “Sanctuary Cities” to punish Democratic congressional foes for inaction on the border.
Although the Justice Department has in the past listed Broward and Palm Beach as sanctuary jurisdictions — and both are Democratic strongholds — officials in both counties have maintained they are complying with federal immigration enforcement requests.
Administrators in Broward and Palm Beach planned to have a strategy session. Palm Beach County Mayor Mack Bernard said he would reach out to Gov. Ron DeSantis, saying that the burden on his county would be “humongous.”
A spokeswoman for the governor’s office said he was not informed of this decision and stressed that Florida counties do not have the resources to accommodate an influx of illegal immigrants.
María Rodriguez, executive director of Florida Immigration Coalition, said the group has been told of the relocation and is trying to come up with a plan.
“We will support and welcome refugees no matter where they come from,” Rodriguez said.
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)