Florida to fight mi­grant flights

Gover­nor vows to take case to Trump on word of re­lo­ca­tion


TAL­LA­HAS­SEE, Fla. — Florida’s gover­nor plans to fight any fed­eral plans to fly hun­dreds of mi­grants weekly from the Mex­i­can bor­der to south Florida, say­ing Fri­day that he’ll take his case to Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

Repub­li­can Gov. Ron DeSan­tis made his re­marks a day af­ter be­ing caught off guard when Broward and Palm Beach county of­fi­cials said they had been no­ti­fied by U.S. Bor­der Pa­trol that mi­grants would be sent to the two coun­ties start­ing in about two weeks.

DeSan­tis told re­porters in Sara­sota af­ter a bill sign­ing cer­e­mony that he was un­aware of any moves to start flights to Florida un­til county of­fi­cials re­ported it to the me­dia Thurs­day. He said such flights would amount to “dump­ing” mi­grants in Florida.

“I think it will tax our re­sources, the schools, the health care, law en­force­ment, state agen­cies,” DeSan­tis said. “It’s gonna ul­ti­mately be some­thing I’m go­ing to have to talk to the pres­i­dent about.”

DeSan­tis noted that he re­cently signed a bill ban­ning sanc­tu­ary ci­ties and ap­peared up­set that mi­grants might be flown to Florida af­ter the pledge to help fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion author­i­ties.

“We’re go­ing to work with them to help them re­move crim­i­nal aliens. We’re not go­ing to be like some of these other states that are not al­low­ing fed­eral author­i­ties to come into a jail or a court­house,” he said. “We’ve been very co­op­er­a­tive.”

Fed­eral of­fi­cials said Fri­day that there are no im­me­di­ate plans to fly mi­grants to Florida.

In San Diego, in­terim Bor­der Pa­trol sec­tor chief Dou­glas Harrison said Fri­day that the agency was fly­ing mi­grants to his lo­ca­tion, but was still con­sid­er­ing whether to add flights to the Detroit, Buf­falo and Mi­ami sec­tors. The agency’s Mi­ami sec­tor in­cludes all of South Florida.

Harrison said the agency was ex­plor­ing is­sues in­clud­ing the avail­abil­ity of air­ports and the ca­pac­ity of char­i­ta­ble groups to pro­vide mi­grants with tem­po­rary as­sis­tance.

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment has run out of space to process the thou­sands of mi­grants who have been ar­riv­ing at the Texas bor­der, forc­ing it to fly mi­grants to Bor­der Pa­trol fa­cil­i­ties in other lo­ca­tions for pro­cess­ing. Once pro­cessed, they are re­leased and given a court date in a city where they plan to re­side, of­ten with fam­ily mem­bers.

The flights are the lat­est sign of how the Bor­der Pa­trol is strug­gling to keep up with large num­bers of Cen­tral Amer­i­can fam­i­lies that are reach­ing the U.S. bor­der with Mexico, es­pe­cially in Texas. Mov­ing mi­grants to less crowded places is ex­pected to dis­trib­ute the work­load more evenly.

Flights from Texas’ Rio Grande Val­ley to San Diego be­gan Fri­day and will con­tinue in­def­i­nitely three times a week, with each flight car­ry­ing 120 to 135 peo­ple, Harrison said.

“We don’t have an end date,” he told re­porters. “This is a con­tin­gency op­er­a­tion. We’ve got to give the peo­ple in Rio Grande Val­ley some re­lief.”

Al­ready, U.S. author­i­ties are mov­ing four buses a day from the Rio Grande Val­ley to Laredo, Texas, about 100 miles away. There is also a daily flight con­tracted through U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment to Del Rio, Texas, about 275 miles away.

Agents in the Rio Grande Val­ley will col­lect bio­graph­i­cal in­for­ma­tion and do a med­i­cal screen­ing be­fore send­ing mi­grants to San Diego on flights con­tracted by Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment, Harrison said. Mi­grants will go from San Diego In­ter­na­tional Air­port to a Bor­der Pa­trol sta­tion, where they will be fin­ger­printed, in­ter­viewed and screened again for med­i­cal prob­lems. Pro­cess­ing at the sta­tion typ­i­cally takes hours.

Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment will de­cide whether to re­lease or de­tain the fam­i­lies in San Diego.

The flights could fur­ther strain the San Diego Rapid Re­sponse Net­work, a coali­tion of re­li­gious and civic groups that has pro­vided tem­po­rary shel­ter to asy­lum-seek­ing fam­i­lies since large-scale re­leases be­gan in Oc­to­ber. San Diego County has sued the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to re­cover costs.

Short flights cost the fed­eral gov­ern­ment about $6,000 each, of­fi­cials said. It wasn’t im­me­di­ately clear how much longer flights cost.

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment has run out of space to process the thou­sands of mi­grants who have been ar­riv­ing at the Texas bor­der, forc­ing it to fly mi­grants to Bor­der Pa­trol fa­cil­i­ties in other lo­ca­tions for pro­cess­ing. Once pro­cessed, they are re­leased and given a court date in a city where they plan to re­side, of­ten with fam­ily mem­bers.


In South Florida, as ar­rests at the bor­der con­tinue to in­crease, of­fi­cials said they have been told to ex­pect the ar­rival twice a week of 135 asy­lum seek­ers, rerouted from the El Paso area. That is equiv­a­lent to about 1,000 peo­ple per month, di­vided be­tween the two coun­ties.

Law en­force­ment briefed on the plans said the ar­rivals were set to be­gin within the next two weeks and that no end date had been set. They said they still hoped fed­eral author­i­ties would re­verse course.

If mi­grants ar­rive by flights to Broward and Palm Beach, some may ul­ti­mately in­tend to go to ci­ties out­side of South Florida or even out of state. In any case, South Florida author­i­ties said they were brac­ing for a po­ten­tial in­flux.

Palm Beach County Sher­iff Ric Brad­shaw said at a news con­fer­ence Thurs­day that he had been in­formed of the plans ear­lier this week by a Bor­der Pa­trol chief based in Mi­ami. Brad­shaw said the mi­grants were char­ac­ter­ized to him as “fam­ily units.”

Hav­ing con­veyed his con­cerns to mem­bers of Florida’s con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tion, the law en­force­ment of­fi­cer said he had a call in to act­ing White House chief of staff Mick Mul­vaney to raise ob­jec­tions to what he knew of the ap­proach.

“No ac­com­mo­da­tions for shel­ter or a place to live,” Brad­shaw said. “Just no real plan on what’s go­ing to hap­pen to these 500 peo­ple ev­ery month that’s go­ing to come to Palm Beach County and be re­leased into our com­mu­nity.”

The sher­iff said he was wor­ried about the crim­i­nal back­grounds of the mi­grants, as well as about the abil­ity of pub­lic and char­i­ta­ble in­sti­tu­tions to cope with the new ar­rivals. “We think it’s a dan­ger to this com­mu­nity,” he said.

Broward County Mayor Mark Bo­gen, a Demo­crat and a prac­tic­ing at­tor­ney, framed the is­sue dif­fer­ently, warn­ing of a “hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis.”

“We will do ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to help these peo­ple,” he said in a news re­lease. “If the Pres­i­dent will not pro­vide us with fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance to house and feed these peo­ple, he will be cre­at­ing a home­less en­camp­ment.”

Palm Beach County Mayor Mack Bernard, a Haitian-born Demo­crat, said he wants a “bet­ter plan from our fed­eral gov­ern­ment.”

“We are not a bor­der state,” he added.

Sen. Marco Ru­bio, R-Fla., sent a let­ter on Thurs­day to Kevin McAleenan, the act­ing Home­land Se­cu­rity sec­re­tary, ask­ing him to re­spond to nine ques­tions “prior to au­tho­riz­ing or sched­ul­ing” any move­ments of mi­grants into the two coun­ties. The ques­tions ad­dressed the ra­tio­nale for the move­ments, as well as their scope. The law­maker asked whether fed­eral author­i­ties had co­or­di­nated with lo­cal of­fi­cials to ready the com­mu­ni­ties for new ar­rivals.

Democrats in Congress rep­re­sent­ing the two coun­ties, in­clud­ing Reps. Deb­bie Wasser­man Schultz and Ted Deutch, also said they had asked the ad­min­is­tra­tion to clar­ify its plans.

In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Bren­dan Far­ring­ton, El­lis Rua, El­liot Spagat, Colleen Long and No­maan Merchant of The As­so­ci­ated Press; and by Isaac Stan­ley-Becker of

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