Feds To Release Migrants Into Florida Communities, Local Officials Say

May 17, 2019
Originally published on May 18, 2019 10:03 am
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In two counties in Florida, local officials say they've been told to prepare for an influx of migrants from the southwest U.S. border. Customs and Border Protection will begin sending 500 migrants every month to both Palm Beach and Broward counties, according to officials. In Florida, the migrants will be processed and released in South Florida. NPR's Greg Allen has more from Miami.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: The sheriffs in the two Florida counties, Broward and Palm Beach, were notified earlier this week of the plans. Customs and Border Protection told local officials they expect soon to begin sending migrants weekly from the El Paso area. They'll be divided between the two counties. Broward County Mayor Mark Bogen says that's 135 migrants each week for each county.

MARK BOGEN: They will get off the plane. They'll be processed at the local Border Patrol offices in Broward and Palm Beach County and then released to the community with no planning on anything - no shelter, no food, no planning on where they're going to stay.

ALLEN: A surge of migrants since the beginning of the year at the southwest border has overwhelmed resources there, leaving many shelters full and unable to accommodate more. Federal authorities have begun busing and, in some cases, reportedly flying migrants to other areas.

But the announcement caught officials in Florida by surprise - everyone from the governor and U.S. senators to county administrators. Sheriff Ric Bradshaw said he was concerned about possible threats to public health and safety. Palm Beach County, he said, is already struggling with outbreaks of measles and hepatitis A, plus a big homeless population.

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RIC BRADSHAW: It's not a good plan. We think it's a danger to this community. And it's going to put a real strain on what the resources are.

ALLEN: Florida Senator Marco Rubio immediately sent a letter to the acting head of the Department of Homeland Security, with questions, he said, that should be answered before movement of any migrants begins. Among the questions - why these two Florida counties? What plans are being made to help the counties? And how long will it continue? Broward County Mayor Mark Bogen says the word he received was that the flights of migrants to his county would continue indefinitely. And he says federal authorities didn't indicate why Broward was chosen.

BOGEN: I'm going to guess that it has to do with politics. We're a majority - a Democratic county. And it's sad that the President of the United States wants to play politics with people's lives.

ALLEN: President Trump recently said he was considering sending migrants to so-called sanctuary communities. Both Broward and Palm Beach County say that label doesn't apply to them. In fact, Florida recently passed a law banning sanctuary communities, which requires local officials to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. Customs and Border protection and DHS did not return requests for comment.

Greg Allen, NPR News, Miami. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.