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As Florida officials brace for immigrant influx, is Trump making good on "sanctuary cities" threat?

Expected plan to move migrants to Florida

Fort Lauderdale, Fla. -- Officials in South Florida say they are preparing for an influx of immigrants being sent by the federal government as the number of migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border grows rapidly. Broward County Mayor Mark Bogen said Thursday that officials in his community and neighboring Palm Beach County were alerted by the federal government that more than a 100 immigrants would be sent weekly to each of the two counties by plane starting in about two weeks.

As CBS News correspondent Ben Tracy reports, the White House had not officially confirmed the plan as of Friday morning. President Trump did say last month, however, that he was considering placing illegal immigrants in so-called "sanctuary cities" to punish opponents of his immigration policy. It wasn't completely clear whether the news out of the Democratic enclaves in Florida -- which do not consider themselves sanctuary cities -- was the first evidence Mr. Trump was trying to make good on that threat.

Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw said he was notified of the plans by the Miami-based office of the U.S. Border Patrol, and that a total of 1,000 people per month would be brought to the two counties from the El Paso, Texas, area. He said immigrant parents and children would be processed in both Florida counties, given a notice to appear in court and then released into the community.

Migrants are escorted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials after crossing illegally into the United States to request asylum, in El Paso, Texas, U.S., in this picture taken from Ciudad Juarez
Migrants are escorted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials after crossing illegally into the United States to request asylum, in El Paso, Texas, U.S., in this picture taken from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, April 3, 2019. REUTERS

The federal government has run out of space to process the thousands of immigrants who have been arriving at the border, forcing them to fly migrants to Border Patrol facilities in other locations that have room.

Tracy says the migrants involved in this scenario do not face criminal charges and would likely be released into the community awaiting immigration hearings. They are typically processed, released and given court dates in a city where they plan to reside, often with family members. Once the immigrants are released, nonprofit organizations in other cities have been stepping in to provide meals and bus tickets to their destinations.

U.S. authorities have already been using buses and aircraft to move migrants to cities both on and away from the border, including Phoenix; Albuquerque, New Mexico; San Antonio and Colorado.

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Despite the practice being widespread amid the recent surge of immigrants, Florida leaders from both parties reacted with alarm at the development and put the blame on the Trump administration.

Bogen warned that the influx would strain the county's social services and be harmful for immigrants stranded without money, housing or knowledge of the city. He said officials are reaching out to nonprofits and businesses to find resources and other support.

"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. "I would suggest that we bring them to the Trump hotels and ask the President to open his heart and home as well."

Democratic Florida Congressman Ted Deutch said he was unable to get federal officials to clarify the Florida plans. He urged the Customs and Border Protection agency to brief Congress on the situation and what help the federal government would provide.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, after saying he'd been briefed by the Palm Beach County sheriff, wrote a letter to the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Kevin McAleenan, urging him not to transport any undocumented migrants to Florida before clarifying the arrangements and conferring with local officials on their needs to receive the influx.

Officials at U.S. Border Patrol offices in Miami and Washington did not immediately return phone calls and emails seeking comment.

In April alone, the Border Patrol apprehended nearly 99,000 people for crossing illegally, with more than two-thirds being unaccompanied children and adults traveling with children. There is also a massive backlog of people on the Mexican side waiting for months for their chance to apply for asylum, including thousands of Cubans in Ciudad Juarez.

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Although the Justice Department has in the past listed Broward and Palm Beach as sanctuary jurisdictions -- and both are Democratic strongholds -- officials in both counties have maintained they are complying with federal immigration enforcement requests.

Administrators in Broward and Palm Beach planned to have a strategy session. Palm Beach County Mayor Mack Bernard said he would reach out to Gov. Ron DeSantis, saying that the burden on his county would be "humongous."

Bernard went as far to say that he "may have to declare a national emergency for Palm Beach County because it would spread us thin."

"If we have to address this as our responsibility we will do everything in our power to feed those individuals and provide them shelter but it will create a financial strain on our already tight budget," he said. "We want a better plan from our federal government."

A spokeswoman for the governor's office said he was not informed of this decision and stressed that Florida counties do not have the resources to accommodate an influx of illegal immigrants.

María Rodriguez, executive director of Florida Immigration Coalition, said the group has been told of the relocation and is trying to come up with a plan.

"We will support and welcome refugees no matter where they come from," Rodriguez said.