Alan Gomez, USA TODAY, May 17, 2019
The Trump administration is preparing to release hundreds of asylum-seeking migrants caught along the southern border into Florida’s Broward and Palm Beach counties, with no apparent plan to house, feed or care for them, according to local officials who have been briefed on the plans.
Broward County Mayor Mark Bogen said Thursday that Customs and Border Protection officials told him they would unload about 1,000 migrant families each month, evenly split between the two counties, for an unknown period of time.
Bogen called the plan “irresponsible” and warned that it would create a “homeless encampment” in his South Florida county.
Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw said Thursday that he received a similar briefing from the Customs and Border Patrol chief in Miami. He said the migrants would be mostly families currently being detained in El Paso, Texas. They would be processed at CBP facilities in Broward and Palm Beach counties, given a date to appear in immigration court and then released into the community.
CBP did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Officials at the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees CBP, did not respond either.
But the decision to ship migrants to Florida appears to be the latest, and most distant, effort by Border Patrol to release Central American families directly into local communities.
The agency has complained that its facilities have been overwhelmed by the record number of migrant families crossing the border. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which is responsible for interior immigration enforcement and has more detention space available, has also said it’s running out of space.
That led Border Patrol agents to begin releasing migrants directly into local communities, at bus stations, community shelters, churches and other places along the border. That’s been happening in Tucson since March.
The transfers are expected to begin within the next two weeks, leading South Florida officials to dust off their mass migration emergency plans originally designed for waves of Cuban and Haitian rafters that occasionally land on their shores. Bradshaw said he never envisioned that plan be used for this kind of situation.
Palm Beach County Mayor Mack Bernard said they have discussed setting up tent cities to temporarily house the migrants after they’re released from CBP custody. They may also call on local health districts to screen the migrants for any communicable diseases or medical problems.