MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Federal officials told CBS4 Friday afternoon that for now, they will not be sending any undocumented migrants to South Florida, however, they said they are looking at processing capacity for U.S. Border Patrol sites across the nation.
Earlier in the day, the federal government’s plan to release hundreds of asylum-seeking migrants into Broward and Palm Beach counties starting next week caught Gov. Ron DeSantis off guard and he’s not happy about it.
DeSantis has been an outspoken supporter of President Donald Trump’s efforts to crack down on illegal immigration.
Watch Hank Tester’s 11 p.m. report:
Speaking at a bill signing ceremony in Sarasota on Friday, DeSantis told reporters, “We cannot accommodate in Florida the dumping of unlawful migrants in our state. I think it will tax our resources; the schools, the health care, law enforcement, state agencies. The state legislature, at my urging, just passed a bill outlawing sanctuary cities and so we, basically as a state said we are going to work with the federal government constructively, we are going to work with them to help remove criminal aliens. We’re not going to be like some of those other states that are not allowing federal authorities to come into a jail or courthouse, we’ve been very cooperative.”
The Republican governor’s office said DeSantis was not informed of the plan, adding that Florida counties do not have the resources to accommodate an “influx of illegal immigrants.”
U.S. Customs and Border Protection could start sending about 135 migrants twice a week to Palm Beach and Broward counties, according to Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw, who said he talked to officials at the federal immigration enforcement agency. The plan could start as soon as the next two weeks.
Bradshaw made the news public Thursday before DeSantis and other officials, including Attorney General Ashley Moody, who works with law-enforcement agencies across the state, were informed. That left state leaders scrambling for information.
“I’m going to have to talk to the President about it,” said DeSantis Friday. “But understand the disaster you are seeing at the border is a disaster created by the policies enacted by the Congress of the United States. This is a direct result of bad policy implemented and I think they should change the policy.”
WATCH DESANTIS NEWS CONFERENCE HERE
Florida Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle said they too were unaware of this plan and have asked the Department of Homeland Security for more details. Senator Marco Rubio sent a letter to DHS on Thursday, asking how this plan would work, whether migrants will be sent to other states that do not share a border with Mexico and why Broward and Palm Beach counties were chosen. His office confirmed to CBS 4 News that as of Friday morning they had not received a response.
CBS 4 News has also reached out 4 times via phone and email to DHS for more specifics on this plan and for confirmation that it is indeed in the works. In a statement late Friday afternoon, Stephanie Malin, a spokesperson with U.S. Customs & Border Protection, said
“…on May 10, CBP began transporting unprocessed family units across southern border sectors to leverage available capacity for processing and holding.”
“The men and women of CBP are doing everything we can to achieve our humanitarian mission and will continue to coordinate with stakeholders in local communities, including other law enforcement agencies, elected officials, and non-governmental organizations, as DHS employs a ‘whole of government’ approach to confronting the ongoing crisis.”
However, the statement did not specifically address migrants being sent to Broward and Palm Beach counties.
Congresswoman Frederica Wilson said she believe the President is trying to retaliate against Broward and Palm Beach counties, both Democratic strongholds.
“He wants to punish Democratic counties so he’s setting up a system so the people in the counties can suffer and be stretched real thin and not even put in the plan any kind of resources,” Wilson said.
The impact on resources could be severe, Broward County already has a waiting list for housing for homeless people and Palm Beach County’s mayor said he would look into an emergency declaration, should this come to pass.
“We will pretty much double or triple our homeless population,” said Mayor Mack Bernard.
CBS 4 News asked Broward County Schools if they’re making plans for an influx of students. A District spokesperson said they’ve received no official information at this point.
For the time being, non profits and county agencies are trying to figure out how to house, feed, educate and provide other services to expected migrants. Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Giménez said he hasn’t been told any migrants will be taken to Miami-Dade but they’re still preparing for an influx.
“We are putting together the resources, the support groups that helped immigrants for a long time,” Gimenez said.
Thomas Kennedy, of the Florida Immigrant Coalition, said all efforts will be made to help any migrants brought here.
“These people are human beings. They have value as people,” Kennedy told CBS 4 News. “We’re gonna work with other non-profit organizations and local government to make sure these people are supported and they can follow the asylum process.”
The move by the federal government, which is trying to alleviate problems at the U.S.-Mexico border, was quickly called “political playback” by Democratic officials. Broward and Palm Beach counties are two of the state’s largest Democratic strongholds.
DeSantis made it clear that no migrants have been released in Florida and doesn’t agree with the plan.
“When someone just comes across the border, we have no idea what their background is, what type of criminal activity they’ve been involved in, we don’t know anything. That’s not how our immigration system works, I mean for 120 years, when you came in, you were checked for health, you were checked to see if you going to be a public charge, all these different things, so I think this would cause a lot of stress on our community.”
All of the communities and residents of Florida are what DeSantis is concerned about.
“We have a lot of fish to fry in our own state with our citizens,” he said stating concern about the 22 million people in our state. “We are really focused on using the resources we have to help the quality of life for Floridians. To just be put on the hook for things that are a result of the Congress’ failure and failed policy at the federal level, that is not acceptable.”
The news of the plan broke just as Trump prepared to roll out a “pro-American” immigration plan, which would increase educational and skills requirements for people who want to migrate to the United States.
“Democrats are proposing open borders, lower wages and frankly, lawless chaos,” Trump said during a news conference Thursday in the Rose Garden of the White House. “We are proposing an immigration plan that puts the jobs, wages, and safety of American workers first.”
Since he took office, DeSantis has pushed for legislation that would force local law-enforcement agencies to fully cooperate with federal immigration authorities and ban so-called sanctuary city policies in the state.
The Legislature this spring passed a bill that would give the governor authority to remove local officials from office if they do not fully comply with federal immigration laws.