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South Florida prepares for migrants from US-Mexico border

Lawmakers rush to get mayors answers on federal plan

Migrants from Central America gather at a shelter May 15, 2019 in El Paso, Texas. Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images
Migrants from Central America gather at a shelter May 15, 2019 in El Paso, Texas. Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – While President Donald Trump unveiled his new immigration plan Thursday, authorities in Broward and Palm Beach counties were preparing to house the migrants the federal government plans to start flying in from the U.S.-Mexico border to South Florida in about two weeks. 

Palm Beach County Mayor Mack Bernard and Broward County Mayor Mark Bogen were working on the logistics. Bogen released a statement saying he is expecting hundreds of migrants to arrive in South Florida on a weekly basis.

"This is a humanitarian crisis. We will do everything possible to help these people," Bogen said in a statement, adding that without additional federal funding the "irresponsible" and "inhumane" policy was going to result in a "homeless encampment."

Under the mandate of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement employees will be working with Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony and Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw to receive the migrants, who will likely be family units.

Central American migrants receive Red Cross blankets before sleeping on cots in a shelter for migrants on May 15, 2019 in El Paso, Texas. Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images
Central American migrants receive Red Cross blankets before sleeping on cots in a shelter for migrants on May 15, 2019 in El Paso, Texas. Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

To deal with a shortage of detention centers in the border, immigration authorities have been using commercial airline flights and buses to move migrants. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Refugee Resettlement is responsible for the unaccompanied children. 

The migrants are usually released from detention after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents process their cases and give them a notice to appear in court for an immigration court hearing. With about 30 U.S. immigration judges in Florida and fewer than 450 in the nation, the court system is facing a backlog.

Nongovernmental organizations such as the Florida Immigration Coalition are also preparing to assist the migrants. Some organizations are overwhelmed as they are rushing to help the thousands of asylum seekers who are waiting in Mexico for a court hearing. 

Rep. Ted Deutch asked Customs and Border Protection agents to brief Congress on the plan for South Florida, and Sen. Marco Rubio urged Kevin McAleenan, the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, to clarify the specifics of the plan. 

"The Trump administration provided no information," Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz said, adding that she and her colleagues are trying to get answers. 

Bernard asked Gov. Ron DeSantis for assistance. In protest, Bogen sarcastically suggested that Trump open his "heart and home as well" and house the migrants at his hotels. Rep. Frederica Wilson liked Bogen's idea. 

"What kind of president is this? Voters won't like this attempt to manufacture crisis in our communities and drain already strained resources," Wilson said. "Building encampments on the grounds of his beloved Mar-a-Lago, however, is something they likely can get behind."

Migrants awaiting processing are held in temporary fencing underneath the Paso Del Norte Bridge on March 28, 2019 in El Paso, Texas. Photo by Christ Chavez/Getty Images
Migrants awaiting processing are held in temporary fencing underneath the Paso Del Norte Bridge on March 28, 2019 in El Paso, Texas. Photo by Christ Chavez/Getty Images

Trump has a drastically different vision, and building a U.S.-Mexico wall remains a priority. He is hoping that Congress will support him with his plan to upend the current family-based immigration policy and replace it with a merit-based point system that favors high skilled and educated migrants. Trump didn't mention that a fourth child -- a 2-year-old Guatemalan migrant -- died in U.S. custody this week. 

Migrants are dropped off at an Annunciation House facility to be cared for after being released by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on January 14, 2019 in El Paso, Texas.(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Migrants are dropped off at an Annunciation House facility to be cared for after being released by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on January 14, 2019 in El Paso, Texas.(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Here is where migrants are being held in the United States: 


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