PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — An official with U.S. Customs and Border Protection said late Friday undocumented immigrant family units stopped at the U.S.-Mexico border will not be sent to Florida at this time.
However, the agency is "looking at processing capacity for U.S. Border Patrol sectors across the nation."
Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw confirmed that, "it appears that Border Patrol has backed off its initial plans to transport a thousand illegal immigrants to South Florida."
On Thursday, South Florida officials said they learned about a controversial plan to relocate hundreds of illegal immigrants from the border to Palm Beach and Broward Counties.
According to the Palm Beach County Association of Chiefs of Police, 14,000 migrant family units could be flown to South Florida each year, transported to Riviera Beach, processed and released into the community pending an asylum hearing.
But it appears, for now, that plan is on hold.
On Saturday, Sheriff Bradshaw issued the following statement:
This is Sheriff Ric Bradshaw. It appears that Border Patrol has backed off its initial plans to transport a thousand illegal immigrants to South Florida. I want to thank the community for its support. I also want to thank all the elected officials that came to the press conference to support our efforts and thank the governmental officials that stepped forward to make sure that, if in fact this happened, we would have the proper plans in place. Because of everybody's efforts, we are able to stop what had appeared to be a crisis for our community. We will continue to monitor this situation and if there are any changes we will let you know. But you need to know that we stand ready to protect you, keep you safe, and adjust to anything that is going to happen in this community that affects your quality of life. Thank you.
In response to growing concerns over the plan, a spokesperson for U.S. Customs and Border Protection released a statement Friday saying many Border Patrol stations on the southern border are at capacity, and as a result, the agency has started releasing non-criminal, processed family units as they await court hearings.
The statement says:
"The men and women of CBP are doing everything we can to achieve our humanitarian mission and will continue to coordinate with stakeholders in local communities, including other law enforcement agencies, elected officials, and non-governmental organizations, as DHS employs a 'whole of government' approach to confronting the ongoing crisis."
Earlier on Friday, Gov. Ron DeSantis criticized the plan, saying it will be harmful to our state.
"We cannot accommodate in Florida just dumping unlawful migrants into our state," said Gov. DeSantis at a news conference in Sarasota Friday morning. "I think it'll tax our resources, the schools, the health care, law enforcement, state agencies."
The governor said he plans to speak to President Donald Trump to get more information about the measure.
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On Thursday, Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw held a news conference, expressing his concerns with the sudden move.
"It's not a good plan," Sheriff Bradshaw said. "We think it's a danger to our community, and it's gonna put a real strain on what the resources are."
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Sheriff Bradshaw said the Border Patrol in Miami informed him that the migrants will be "family units," and they'll be released into the community pending an asylum hearing.
"They're gonna be given a notice to appear," said Sheriff Bradshaw. "How many people do you think are coming back? Zero."
The sheriff said the migrants could start coming to Palm Beach County in just two weeks.
According to Broward County Mayor Mark Bogen, the Trump Administration will send two planes a week to South Florida, carrying a total of 270 migrants, as part of its effort to relieve the migrant population along the Texas border.
The migrants will be equally divided between Palm Beach and Broward Counties, Bogen said.
On Friday, new West Palm Beach Mayor Keith James released this statement about the immigrant move:
"The City of West Palm Beach is prepared for what may become a humanitarian crisis in our own backyard. The federal government’s plan to send border families to South Florida will unnecessarily stress local communities and tax resources. Right now, we’re actively assessing the city’s role in providing assistance, should our city receive an influx of families. We are also in close contact with our partners at the county, state and federal levels to work together to address the issue. It’s time to take politics out of the immigration debate and develop common sense solutions that benefit everyone."
Also on Friday, the Palm Beach County School District released a statement saying in part:
"Under federal law, public education is the right of every child K-12, regardless of their birthplace or citizenship. As such, the School District of Palm Beach County will continue to provide a world-class education to all students without consideration of their immigration status."
The school district said it has an Immigrant Support Plan in place, which outlines protocol toward immigrant students. The district added it's ready to provide support to any immigrant children in need of education.
In addition, the Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach County said it's ready to respond, however at this time it's awaiting more detailed information from the federal government.