Authorities in Broward and Palm Beach counties are rejecting a new plan by Border Patrol that would deliver around 1,000 migrants every month to South Florida, arguing that it would burden the already overstretched resources of the counties and could put communities in danger.
"It's not a good plan. We think it's a danger for this community," said Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw in a joint press conference with Palm Beach County Mayor Mack Bernard.
Bradshaw explained that Border Patrol recently informed them of a plan to ship 135 migrants twice a week from El Paso, Texas, and split them between Broward and Palm Beach counties. "We are being told they are family units but we don't know what that means, we don't know the composition [of the groups]," he said.
In a statement Thursday afternoon, a spokesperson for Gov. Ron DeSantis told WLRN the Governor's office had not been informed of the decision: "Florida counties do not have the resources to accommodate an influx of illegal immigrants."
Mayor Bernard said the new arrivals would be processed, given a court date and then released, according to current immigration procedures. But the federal plan has no provisions for housing and transportation for these individuals. "Basically, they would be left as our responsibility," he said.
"We know that there's a humanitarian crisis at the border. However, shifting that responsibility to Palm Beach County is something that needs to be addressed and addressed properly," said Bernard.
Bernard expressed concerns about how the influx of migrants would stress public resources in key areas like housing and schools. "We might have to declare a state of emergency," he said, pointing out that the plan outlined by the Border Patrol did not indicate an end date for the shipping of migrants.
The Palm Beach County mayor indicated he had contacted senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, as well as the Governor's office. "This needs to be planned. We are not a border state," said Bernard.
Sheriff Bradshaw said his office is considering this a safety issue because "we don't know what we are getting. We don't know where they are from, what are they bringing."
In towns like Riviera Beach, Central American migrants seeking asylum already live as many as five families to one two-bedroom apartment in low-income complexes. Immigrant advocates in Palm Beach expressed concerns on Thursday that this new plan will exacerbate that situation. It will also intensify the competition for low-wage work like landscaping.
Customs and Border Protection did not immediately verify the plans or respond to requests for comment.
The Department of Health and Human Services said they were not aware of the plan.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said members of Congress who represent areas of Palm Beach and Broward counties have been kept in the dark about the proposal.
"The Trump administration provided no information about this alleged proposal to Members of Congress representing Broward or Palm Beach counties," Wasserman Schultz in a statement. "My colleagues and I representing Broward County and Palm Beach County have requested more information from DHS."
In April, the Trump Administration acknowledged that it was considering sending undocumented immigrants who recently crossed the U.S.-Mexico border to so-called “sanctuary cities." Florida has no sanctuary cities, and the legislature just passed a bill banning sanctuary cities across the state. DeSantis has yet to sign that legislation.
Broward County Mayor Mark Bogen told WLRN the Broward County Sheriff's Office was contacted by Border Patrol and informed of the plan.
"They're not providing any money, shelter, food, any plan, or any way in which we are supposed to bring these people into the community," said Mayor Bogen. "We're scrambling to talk to charities, we're scrambling to talk to different organizations. We're meeting with Palm Beach County right now, to see if there's regional work we can do too. And it's actually the most inhumane thing that I feel the [Trump] Administration is doing. It's an irresponsible policy."
The migrants will be processed in Border Patrol facilities in Dania Beach and West Palm Beach, said Broward Mayor Bogen.
"We have a mass migration plan, but a mass migration plan is designed to handle something like the Mariel boatlift where people come here exigently with circumstances, and we take them into custody and turn them over to Border Patrol," said Palm Beach Sheriff Bradshaw. "It’s not for this reverse type of situation where the federal government is actually bringing the illegal immigrants to us.”
"We’re gonna deal with this the best way we can, and hopefully this will be reconsidered by Border Patrol," said Bradshaw.
Jorge Vielman is the South Florida Program Coordinator at the Mennonite Central Committee office. The religious office helps immigrants with asylum, visa and citizenship applications. He said while they don't have the capacity to help with an influx this large, they have community partners they will rely on and it's not a reason to turn anyone away.
"For us as a Christian organization we see this as an opportunity," he said. "Also as a Christian, you know, we work with lots of churches, and I think this is an opportunity for congregations to be welcoming. To be welcoming to the stranger and to try to help them in any way."
A big question hanging over the two-county plan is why a third South Florida county - neighboring Miami-Dade, just south of Broward - wasn't included as well. Shortly after President Trump took office in 2017, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez agreed to a federal request to hand over the county's undocumented immigrant detainees. He made the decision, he said, because of Trump's threat to withhold federal grant money from local governments that didn't cooperate - about $300 million in Miami-Dade's case.
Gimenez's move won applause from the Trump Administration. Then Attorney General Jeff Sessions even made a special visit to Miami to thank him.