Acting DHS chief says U.S. won't send migrants to Florida, insists he didn't threaten to quit

Acting DHS chief says administration won't send migrants to Florida

Last Updated May 19, 2019 4:02 PM EDT

The Trump administration will not send immigrants who cross the southern border to Florida, a reversal that was decided over the weekend, acting Department of Homeland Security chief Kevin McAleenan told "Face the Nation" on Sunday.

McAleenan's comments come after Florida officials said they were told earlier last week that federal officials were sending immigrants to South Florida jurisdictions. McAleenan told "Face the Nation" that "U.S. Customs and Border Protection did notify officials locally in those areas that they were looking at the possibility of doing that," but the CBP acting commissioner decided against doing so Saturday.

News of the plans drew criticism from elected officials in Florida, including Ron DeSantis, the state's Republican governor, who said Friday the state "cannot accommodate in Florida this dumping of unlawful migrants." DeSantis confirmed in a Tweet Sunday that he has spoken with Mr. Trump, and migrants won't be heading to his state.

"President @realDonaldTrump and I spoke yesterday and confirmed that he did not approve, nor would approve, sending immigrants who illegally cross the border, to Florida. It is not going to happen," DeSantis tweeted.

McAleenan insisted the administration is focused on using southwest border areas to handle the influx of immigrants. He also claimed the administration isn't moving immigrants to sanctuary jurisdictions, as President Trump has said he wants to do. McAleenan claimed sanctuary cities are already housing many immigrants because those cities serve as a "magnet."

McAleenan also insisted he never threatened to quit, denying a Washington Post report that he threatened to leave amid a dispute with top Trump adviser and immigration hardliner Stephen Miller, who was reportedly pushing for another shakeup at the agency.

McAleenan, who is also the head of CBP, took over as acting DHS secretary after former DHS secretary Kirstjen Nielsen resigned in April.

Last week, Mr. Trump announced a proposal to reform legal immigration by restricting some family-based migration and instituting higher skill and education requirements. The proposal would overhaul the family-based migration system Mr. Trump calls "chain migration." But the proposal was light on specifics, and the administration has given no timeline for when the proposal might be released in the form of a bill.

"Our proposal is pro-American, pro-immigrant, and pro-worker. It's just common sense," the president told supporters and reporters in the White House Rose Garden on Thursday. 

  • Kathryn Watson

    Kathryn Watson is a politics reporter for CBS News Digital.