Immigration

Mayors say feds plan to ship thousands of migrants to S. Florida. What do feds say? Zilch

Hungry migrants grow frustrated with lack of aid in Southern Mexico

The outpouring of aid that once greeted Central American migrants as they trekked in caravans through southern Mexico has declined, now leaving thousands stranded or unsure of their next move.
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The outpouring of aid that once greeted Central American migrants as they trekked in caravans through southern Mexico has declined, now leaving thousands stranded or unsure of their next move.

Broward and Palm Beach County leaders reacted with alarm Thursday after being told that 1,000 migrants will be sent to those counties every month in order to alleviate a surge at the Mexican border.

Broward leaders posted the news online Thursday, saying they were told by the federal government that “hundreds of immigrants will be arriving in Broward County on a weekly basis without designated shelters or funding to house them, feed them, and keep them safe.“

Broward Mayor Mark Bogen told the Herald that the Broward County Sheriff’s Office was given notice by U.S. Customs and Border Protection that 270 migrants will be flown in to Palm Beach and Broward every week starting in two weeks. That’s more than 1,000 a month.

Is the plan for real? Or could it be a mind game by a president who has mused aloud about sending migrants to so-called sanctuary cities? Local officials were taking it seriously.

The Miami Herald could not independently confirm the impending influx. U.S. Customs and Border Protection directed press inquiries to the Department of Homeland Security. Homeland Security directed all questions to Customs and Border Protection. It remained unclear Thursday whether the purported policy applies only to Broward and Palm Beach or to other areas around the nation, and if not, why not. Also, why Miami-Dade was seemingly not included.

The move not only caught local officials off guard, but also Gov. Ron DeSantis, a staunch supporter of the president.

“The governor’s office was not informed of this decision. Florida counties do not have the resources to accommodate an influx of illegal immigrants,” DeSantis said in a tweet.

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, a Democrat from Boca Raton, called it an example of the president’s “mean-spirited, ongoing effort to demonize immigrants and divide our country.“

Last month, after press reports that the administration had considered but rejected a proposal to ship freshly arrived migrants to so-called “sanctuary cities,” the administration initially denied the reports. But before a raucous, cheering crowd at a political rally, President Donald Trump said it was not just a proposal, but a policy, boasting that it was his own “sick idea.”

Leaders say they are scrambling because local homeless shelters are full and there are no plans at any level of government to provide housing.

“We’re expecting the creation of a massive homelessness problem,” Bogen said. “The administration is just dropping them off and saying ‘good luck.’ Then they expect our sheriff’s office to be a bus service. We are not a bus service.”

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Undocumented immigrants wait to be interviewed about their asylum claims at the port of entry to the United States in Tijuana, Mexico in June 2018. SANDY HUFFAKER NYT

It was unclear if Broward leaders were told to expect just adults or family units. Unaccompanied minors would apparently not be a part of the influx, since those populations are managed by the Department of Health and Human Services.

“This is a humanitarian crisis. We will do everything possible to help these people. 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, adding that “a sudden influx of immigrants will further strain Broward County’s social services and will cause further harm to immigrants who will be left here with no money, housing or basic knowledge of the area.”

The county is currently reaching out to local charities, non-profits, and businesses for support.

Bogen said the incoming migrants would be processed at U.S. Customs and Border Protection Offices in the two counties — in Dania Beach and West Palm Beach. Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said he was told by local law enforcement that once processed, they will be released into the community pending an asylum hearing.

Mack Bernard, the Palm Beach County mayor, said the responsibility of caring for migrant families should not be shifted to South Florida communities.

“If so many people are coming to Palm Beach County we may have to declare a national emergency because they will spread us thin,” Bernard said, noting that the city is already wrestling with its own homelessness problem. “The burden that will affect us will be humongous, specifically our school system. We are not a border state. We are the state of Florida.”

The news was striking for the exclusion of Miami-Dade from the announced flights, skipping Florida’s most populous county and the one most accustomed to absorbing large influxes, including the Mariel exodus from Cuba in 1980 and smaller subsequent ones that collectively transformed the county.

Of the three South Florida counties, only Miami-Dade complied with Trump’s demands early in his administration to end so-called “sanctuary” policies for undocumented immigrants.

Days after Trump took office, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez ordered local jails to resume accepting detainer requests from immigration officers. The requests apply to people booked at a jail on an unrelated local charge who are also being sought by immigration agents for potential deportation.

The detainer requests ask local law enforcement to incarcerate the person an additional 48 hours in order to give ICE agents a window to take the person into custody.

Gimenez’s policy switch, later endorsed by the Miami-Dade Commission, drew public praise from Trump on the presidential Twitter feed. In August 2017, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions flew to Miami to congratulate the county, saying a “sanctuary city” is “a trafficker, smuggler, or a predator’s best friend.”

It was at a campaign rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin, that the president announced his plan to ship migrants from the border to sanctuary jurisdictions.

“Last month alone, 100,000 illegal immigrants arrived at our borders, placing a massive strain on communities and schools and hospitals and public resources like nobody’s ever seen before,” Trump said on April 29. “Now we’re sending many of them to sanctuary cities, thank you very much. They’re not too happy about it. I’m proud to tell you that was actually my sick idea, by the way. No. Hey, hey, what did they say? ‘We want them.’ I said: ‘We’ll give them to you. Thank you.’ They said, ‘We don’t want them.’ ”

On Monday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced it was taking the unusual step of flying migrants to less crowded locations for processing. According to the Associated Press, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement manages the flights at a cost of $6,000 each.



Miami Herald Staff Writer Douglas Hanks contributed to this report.
Monique O. Madan covers immigration and enterprise; she previously covered breaking news and local government. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Boston Herald and The Dallas Morning News. She is currently a Reveal Fellow at the Center for Investigative Reporting. She graduated from Miami Dade College and Emerson College in Boston. A note to tipsters: If you want to send Monique confidential information, her email and mailbox are open. The address is 3511 NW 91st Ave, Doral, FL 33172. You can also direct message her on social media and she’ll provide encrypted Signal details.
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