The Department of Homeland Security confirmed Thursday it will transport approximately 500 migrants per month from a Mexican border camp in El Paso to both Broward and Palm Beach Counties, blindsiding Tallahassee and sending unprepared South Florida authorities into a blind panic.
According to Reuters, senior government officials said moving migrants out of camps is the first step in a plan to harden border security and overhaul the legal immigration system to favor applicants who speak English, are well-educated and have job offers.
Nevertheless, even loyalists to President Trump were scrambling for information on this 'distribution' plan. Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has the president's ear on many high-level matters, admitted Thursday he was in the dark about the coming influx of immigrants to Florida and wasn't pleased.
U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, another of Trump's staunchest allies, weighed in, telling the News Service of Florida he doesn't want a “horde of illegal immigrants dumped” in the state. “I’m sure Texas, Arizona and New Mexico feel the same way,” added the congressman from the Panhandle.
On Thursday Sen. Marco Rubio, who has been among the closest to the president on matters involving Central American policy, sent a letter to Kevin McAleenan, the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, requesting details of any plan to transport 500 migrants a month from El Paso to Florida.
“Does the Department intend to transport migrants currently in custody at the southern border to states that do not share a land border with Mexico,” Rubio asked. “If so, why?”
He also asked whether the department had engaged with state and local government organizations to plan for the migrants’ arrival and if those entities had asked for additional resources.
Broward County Mayor Mark Bogen told Sunshine State News that the first the two most affected counties weren't told until Wednesday. “They’re just sending them in with no shelter, no food, no plan and we've got zero information and zero help. ... Who are these people? Children? Senior citizens?" He called it "horrible, deplorable for these poor people" and an attempt to treat South Florida counties like sanctuary cities -- "which we're not."
The two counties told they're about to receive immigrants are overwhelmingly Democratic. Some 66 percent of Broward County voters and 56 percent of voters in Palm Beach supported Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.
Broward County is not a sanctuary county -- and neither is Palm Beach, for that matter. But in early 2017, the County Commission approved a resolution declaring itself an “inclusive county” that “welcomes, celebrates, and offers refuge to all residents and visitors irrespective of race, religion, ethnicity, or national origin.” Some close to the White House considered that statement a tantamount to a slap on the president's face.
Bogen said officials in Broward and Palm Beach are "fppying blind" but hit the ground running, working to muster local charities, nonprofits and businesses to coordinate a plan to deal with whoever arrives.
Speaking at a news conference, Palm Beach County Mayor Mack Bernard said he wants to talk to the governor, perhaps even suggesting that with so many people coming into the county, a national emergency be declared.
Treasure Coast Newspapers reported Martin County Sheriff William Snyder was contacted by a U.S. border patrol agent who told him Thursday afternoon an unknown number of migrants from the southern border are expected at Palm Beach International Airport sooner rather than later and they could go to rural Indiantown "because they have family in the area."
Snyder, a former state representative, said the only specific area in Martin County the border patrol agent mentioned was Indiantown, "but there could be other areas the agent didn't mention."
Snyder told TCN he feels the situation is a result of "Congress letting America down."
"I think if we get hundreds of undocumented aliens, our calls for service are going to go up," he said. "I mean, that's just the way life is, but we will rise to the occasion. I'm not intimidated."
Trump's immigration proposal, the product largely of senior advisers Jared Kushner and Stephen Miller and economic aide Kevin Hassett, is an effort to rally Republicans on an issue that has often divided them.
Wednesday was the first time it came to light.
Reuters claims approval by Congress is a longshot. Nevertheless, says the news service, "the plan will give Republicans an outline they can say they favor as Trump and lawmakers look toward the November 2020 presidential and congressional elections, where immigration will likely be a key issue."
For decades, U.S. immigration laws have given priority to family-based immigration, and about two-thirds of all people granted green cards each year have family ties to people in the United States.
Trump's plan would keep legal immigration steady at 1.1 million people a year, but family-based immigration would account for only a third of that. Instead, high-skilled people with jobs would be given priority, and could bring with them their spouses and children, the officials told reporters at a White House briefing on Wednesday.
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