Florida officials worry U.S. may send them hundreds of migrants and no resources

Cuban migrants wait in Juarez, Mexico, last month as they wait to apply for asylum in the United States.
(Christian Torres / Associated Press)

Officials in some of south Florida’s Democratic strongholds said Thursday that they had been warned the federal government is considering a plan to send them hundreds of migrants from the U.S.-Mexico border in two weeks without any resources to house or feed them.

“They’re just going to be letting them into the county with no shelter, no food, no plan,” Broward County Mayor Mark Bogen said. “They’re giving us absolutely zero information, zero help and just basically using these people as pawns. It’s horrible, absolutely horrible.”

In a statement, Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony said the U.S. Border Patrol notified him and Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw on Wednesday that it was considering a plan to send immigrants to both counties.

Although state and federal government officials have yet to confirm plans, Tony requested an emergency meeting with county commissioners to prepare for any potential influx of immigrants.

The Department of Homeland Security did not immediately comment.


On Thursday, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio sent a letter to Kevin McAleenan, the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, requesting details of any plan to transport 500 migrants a month from El Paso to Florida.

“Does the Department intend to transport migrants currently in custody at the southern border to states that do not share a land border with Mexico,” Rubio asked. “If so, why?”

He also asked whether the department had engaged with state and local government organizations to plan for the migrants’ arrival and if those entities had asked for additional resources.

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, a loyalist to President Trump, also weighed in.

“The governor’s office was not informed of this decision,” he tweeted. “Florida counties do not have the resources to accommodate an influx of illegal immigrants.”

Last month, the Washington Post reported that White House officials had tried to pressure U.S. immigration authorities to release detainees onto the streets of “sanctuary cities,” areas whose municipal laws protect people in the country illegally from deportation or prosecution. But the Department of Homeland Security said the idea was ultimately rejected.

Trump took to Twitter shortly after the story was published to say he was still considering releasing immigrants who illegally crossed the border in immigrant-friendly communities.

“Due to the fact that Democrats are unwilling to change our very dangerous immigration laws, we are indeed, as reported, giving strong considerations to placing Illegal Immigrants in Sanctuary Cities only,” he wrote. “The Radical Left always seems to have an Open Borders, Open Arms policy – so this should make them very happy!”

A Border Patrol official who asked not to be identified said that Immigration and Customs Enforcement had begun flying migrants out from Rio Grande Valley to Del Rio, Texas, to mitigate crowding in the border holding areas.

With little information, officials in Broward County and Palm Beach are scrambling to reach out to local charities, nonprofits and businesses to coordinate a plan to help any migrants who may arrive.

“It’s probably one of the most inhumane things and irresponsible policies of the Trump administration,” Bogen said. “We have two weeks to prepare, and we don’t have any information. Are these seniors? Are they children? Are they adults?”

Reaching out to state officials and officials representing Florida in Washington, Bogen was shocked to find they knew nothing.

“In normal times, there’s coordination between the federal government, the state government and then the county government,” he said. “We called our governor — doesn’t know a thing. Our U.S. senators didn’t know anything about it. Our U.S. congressman had not been informed.”

“It’s hard to believe that the president of the United States would use people as political pawns in an inhumane policy,” he added. “The president is playing politics with people’s lives.”

The areas of southeast Florida that have been told they may receive immigrants are overwhelmingly Democratic. About 66% of Broward County voters and 56% of Palm Beach County voters supported Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.

Broward County is not a sanctuary city. But in early 2017, the County Commission approved a resolution declaring itself an “inclusive county” that “welcomes, celebrates, and offers refuge to all residents and visitors irrespective of race, religion, ethnicity, or national origin.”

The resolution declared that “immigrants are the foundation of this country and have, throughout history, made significant contributions to the economic and social fabric of the nation.”

Immigration is a contentious issue in Florida, a swing state that is controlled by a Republican governor, House and Senate. Last month, the state House and Senate passed different versions of a bill banning sanctuary cities and punishing local law enforcement agencies that do not fully comply with federal immigration authorities.

The two legislative chambers have yet to reconcile their separate proposals, but Gov. DeSantis is widely expected to sign any sanctuary city ban.

Over the last month, Trump has repeatedly singled California out for criticism, suggesting it should take more immigrants.

“California certainly is always saying, ‘Oh, we want more people,’” he told reporters at the White House last month. “And they want more people in their sanctuary cities. Well, we’ll give them more people. We can give them a lot. We can give them an unlimited supply. Let’s see if they’re so happy.”

Trump himself owns several properties in south Florida, including his lavish Mar-a-Lago resort.

That gave Bogen an idea.

“All I can suggest is that we take these people, if they become homeless, over to Trump’s Doral hotel and ask Trump to open up his heart and home to these people,” he said.

Staff Writer Molly Hennessy-Fiske contributed to this report from El Paso.