By David Smiley
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Friday the state isn't prepared to handle vague Trump administration plans to send some 1,000 undocumented immigrants a month from the southern border to South Florida.
"We cannot accommodate in Florida the dumping of unlawful migrants into our state," DeSantis said during a news conference and bill-signing ceremony on the state's west coast. "I think it will tax our resources, our schools, the health care, law enforcement, state agencies."
With South Florida sheriffs warning that they've been informed by Customs and Border Patrol that immigration agents will begin flying hundreds of undocumented immigrants into the region starting around the beginning of June, DeSantis said he's "investigated." But the governor's statements Friday show that, like many of the state's politicians _ some of them President Donald Trump's close allies _ he remains mostly in the dark about the details of a hugely controversial proposal.
"I don' have enough information about it. As I said, this is not something that came down from the White House, this is something that came out of the agencies," said DeSantis, who cautioned reporters that the details being relayed by local sheriffs may not be concrete. "It will ultimately be something that I'll have to talk to the president about."
Like DeSantis, Florida's congressional delegation is still searching for answers in the wake of news that came from the Palm Beach sheriff's office of a looming influx of border immigrants.
"Earlier this week the chief of Border Patrol out of Miami informed us that their intentions were to bring about 1,000 people every month up into the Broward and Palm Beach County area, 500 to each county. And that these people were going to be brought from the El Paso area that have crossed the border illegally. The composition, according to what we were told, is supposed to be family units," Palm Beach Sheriff Ric Bradshaw said in his own news conference Thursday. "We don't know what that means."
Like his counterparts in Broward and Martin counties, which are also reportedly slated to receive undocumented immigrants arriving through Palm Beach International Airport, Bradshaw warned that South Florida doesn't have the resources to handle an influx of undocumented immigrants. He said he was told that the plan was to fly immigrants in from the border, process them through immigrations, give them a notice to appear in court and then set them free into South Florida without accommodations.
"We think it's a dangerous plan," Bradshaw said.
However concerned Bradshaw may be about the lack of details in the government's plan, he appears to have more information than Florida's governor, or even its congressional delegation.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, after receiving details from Bradshaw, sent a letter to the acting secretary of U.S. Homeland Security on Thursday, asking for basic details and confirmation of what he heard out of the Palm Beach County sheriff. U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, who represents parts of Broward and Palm Beach, criticized the "stunning amount of confusion surrounding the Administration's outrageous immigration policy" on Thursday.
"While I'm compelled to point to the President's mean-spirited, ongoing effort to demonize immigrants and divide our country rather than seriously addressing this issue, I hesitate saying more about these reports because no one in the Administration seems to know what is happening," Deutch said in a statement.
U.S. Sen. Rick Scott also said through a spokesman Friday that he's trying to get more information from Homeland Security.
The idea that immigration officials would begin sending undocumented immigrants to South Florida would fit with recent reports that Trump's administration has pondered sending people from the border to Democratic bastions. South Florida is the bluest area in the state.
But the situation is bizarre given how much time and effort Trump's team has put into cultivating faith and support in Florida, and DeSantis mentioned Friday that the Legislature just passed a law banning sanctuary cities. He stressed that details may not be accurate or finalized yet, but made clear that he doesn't yet know whether that's true.
"The idea that South Florida was selected is something that leaked out. I'm not even sure that's fully the case. I don't know," he said. "I think you'll just have to ask the folks, whoever contacted law enforcement, however that happened in the agency."
Homeland Security and Customs and Border Patrol have not responded to requests for information since Thursday.
(Miami Herald reporter Monique Madan, El Nuevo Herald reporter Nora Gamez Torres and McClatchy Washington bureau reporter Franco Ordonez contributed to this report.)
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