‘All we are looking at right now is where we have the capacity…’
(Skyler Swisher, Sun Sentinel) A proposal to send thousands of migrants to South Florida to ease the crisis at the Southern border is only part of a “contingency plan” that is still in the works, a senior official with U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Friday.
Officials in Broward and Palm Beach have expressed alarm this week that they could soon be inundated with an influx of undocumented immigrants.
A federal official tried to address those concerns Friday in a conference call with reporters, saying there is no imminent plan to send migrants to Broward and Palm Beach counties. The official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said it remains a possibility under a contingency plan being developed.
“We do not have any aircraft flying into Florida at this time, but we are looking at capacity building,” he said.
“All we are looking at right now is where we have the capacity,” he added.
The official declined to identify the communities under consideration, other than to say the agency is examining facilities in coastal and northern border regions that could process the overflow of migrants at the southern border.
Broward County Mayor Mark Bogen said he’s not aware of anyone from the federal government contacting county officials to clarify that there are no imminent plans. He questioned why the Trump administration is discussing its planning anonymously with reporters and not communicating with local officials.
“Just call us. We are not getting one phone call,” he said Friday evening. “We are still acting on the information until we are told otherwise.”
Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw said he was told by a Miami-based Border Patrol official earlier this week that about 1,000 migrants a month would be transported from the El Paso, Texas, area to Broward and Palm Beach counties within two weeks.
He said the federal government has not given local officials an adequate plan for providing educational, health care, housing and transportation services. It also hasn’t offered to reimburse communities for expenses.
Palm Beach County leaders met Friday at the emergency operations center to plan for a possible influx. Palm Beach County Mayor Mack Bernard said tent encampments may have to be created, and he suggested declaring a state of emergency.
Ted J. Gonzales, executive director of the Palm Beach County Association of Chiefs of Police, wrote in a letter dated Thursday his organization was briefed by Chief Angel Belen with the U.S. Border Patrol on a “plan to transport migrants into South Florida.” The organization voted to oppose the plan.
Border Patrol officials have been stressing for weeks that they are reaching a breaking point.
About 248,197 migrants in families had been apprehended at the border as of April, compared with 49,621 during the same period last year. In late March, former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen issued a statement, saying “the system was in freefall” and had reached peak capacity.
Because of overcrowded facilities on the border, about 40,000 migrants have been released since mid-March in border communities that span from Brownsville, Texas, to San Diego.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement aircraft are flying migrants from Rio Grande Valley sector to the Del Rio, Texas, and San Diego sectors.
Gov. Ron DeSantis said he plans to speak with President Donald Trump to express his opposition to sending migrants to Florida. He said counties do not have the resources to accommodate an influx of undocumented immigrants.
“The disaster that we’re seeing at the border, that is a disaster created by the policies that were enacted by the Congress of the United States,” he said during a press conference in Sarasota.
(Staff writer Anthony Man contributed to this report.)
©2019 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.