WASHINGTON — Florida lawmakers in Congress are demanding answers from the Trump administration after reports surfaced this week that the Department of Homeland Security intends to send hundreds of immigrants per month to Broward and Palm Beach Counties.
Republicans and Democrats alike in Florida’s congressional delegation were surprised by the reports that local officials had been told to prepare for an influx of migrants. Broward and Palm Beach County leaders were told that 1,000 people will be sent from the U.S.-Mexico border to those counties each month, the Miami Herald reported on Thursday.
But the administration hasn’t yet fleshed out the details to the public or to members of Congress, and some Florida lawmakers are furious.
“The Trump Administration has once again decided to use the weakest and most vulnerable as political pawns in its morally bankrupt immigration policies,” said U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.), whose 20th District includes parts of Broward and Palm Beach Counties. Hastings said the administration hadn’t given him or his colleagues representing those counties any prior notice.
“It is imperative that the Trump Administration works with Congress and our local leaders to ensure plans are in place to shelter, feed, and protect these families,” Hastings said. “Putting hundreds of men, women, and children on the streets is not a plan – it is a calculated and cruel disaster waiting to happen.”
U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, a Democrat who represents Palm Beach County, also accused the Trump administration of “using human beings as political pawns.” Her office was seeking more information about the plans, she said Thursday in a statement.
U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), whose 22nd District serves northern Broward County and southeastern Palm Beach County, decried the “stunning amount of confusion surrounding the Administration’s outrageous immigration policy.
“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 added.
On Thursday, Deutch called for the commissioner of Customs and Border Protection to brief members of Congress on Friday about the plans, but his spokesman said Friday that they hadn’t gotten any additional information from the administration.
The Department of Homeland Security did not respond to a request for comment Friday about the status of the plan.
It appears that Florida’s Republican senators were also kept in the dark.
U.S. Sen. Rick Scott reached out to local sheriffs and is reaching out to the White House and the Department of Homeland Security to get more details, his spokesperson told the Florida Phoenix on Friday.
“Senator Scott has been clear that we need to secure the border…,” the spokesperson said. “There were almost 99,000 apprehensions at our southern border in April, more than double the number of apprehensions in January. It’s a crisis and it needs to be fixed.”
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio sent a letter to Kevin McAleenan, acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, requesting details about the administration’s plans. Rubio asked why they’re moving people to states that don’t share a border with Mexico; how many migrants will be transported, and how the locations were chosen.
“It is clear the current situation is untenable and the Department is faced with difficult choices given the lack of resources appropriated to secure our nation’s southern border,” Rubio said in a statement.
Rubio was one of 12 Senate Republicans who voted in March to reverse Trump’s declaration of a national emergency along the southern U.S. border, although he has called for Trump to obtain funding for a wall using other methods.
Some see the plan to move migrants as a political maneuver.
“The blatant politics, sending them to the two most Democratic counties in the state of Florida, is ridiculous,” state Sen. Gary Farmer, a Democrat who represents portions of Broward County, told Politico. “You can’t make this stuff up.”