Florida's Broward County Braces For Migrant Influx

May 17, 2019
Originally published on May 17, 2019 6:46 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The federal government wants to send a thousand migrants a month to two counties in Florida. Local officials in Broward and Palm Beach Counties revealed this plan even though U.S. Customs and Border Protection has not publicly announced it. They've been told the migrant families will start arriving in about two weeks. Broward County Mayor Mark Bogen calls it a humanitarian crisis. And he joins us now from Fort Lauderdale. Welcome to the program.

MARK BOGEN: Thank you. Good to be here.

SHAPIRO: When did you first get word of this plan to relocate migrants from the Texas border to South Florida?

BOGEN: So two days ago, we were notified by our sheriffs, the Palm Beach County sheriff, through the Broward County sheriff. I believe they were notified by Border Patrol that 135 people will be sent each week to Broward County and Palm Beach County. The sheriffs then turned and notified myself as mayor of the county. And with that notification came no instructions on sheltering these people, feeding these people, housing these people, determining the health of anybody. Just, here's 135 people coming every week. Good luck. That's basically what the message has been.

SHAPIRO: What was your initial reaction to that?

BOGEN: Pretty much disbelief. Normally, when anything happens like this, the federal government contacts the state government, the state government then will contact the local county government, like us. In this situation, no protocol. There's been nothing communicated in those channels. We've contacted the governor's office. They have no idea. We contacted our U.S. Senators Scott and Rubio. They had no idea. We contacted our congresspeople. Nobody was informed by the Trump administration about any of this.

SHAPIRO: And did you get the sense that this is a done deal - this was not, like, a draft plan or a trial balloon?

BOGEN: You know, we have to take it seriously. We don't know if it's a done deal. We're taking the word of the Border Patrol, who's communicated to our sheriffs. And we have to take it seriously because in less than two weeks, we may have 135 people each week to deal with, and we have no facilities currently to put anybody, anywhere.

SHAPIRO: Do you have any idea why these two South Florida counties were chosen as a destination for these migrant families?

BOGEN: You know, in April, I read that Trump was threatening to bring people to sanctuary cities. However, in March 2017, the Broward County Commission voted while we are a welcoming and inclusive county, we're not a sanctuary county. So my only guess, which I think is correct, is that Donald Trump is doing this politically. We're a Democratic county, Broward County, and I'm going to believe that he's doing this because the majority of this county is Democratic.

SHAPIRO: You're a Democratic county in a state where both senators and the governor are Republicans. Do you think they could have any influence here?

BOGEN: I think they could have influence if the president is listening. I'm going to anticipate that the president is not listening at this point. This is really an inhumane act that the president is doing. It's irresponsible policy. Usually, you've got to have a plan. You have an organized plan to deal with people. You know, we in Broward County will do the best we can to help these people, but to just bring people to a county with no plan, no money, no resources, what he's going to create is a homeless tent encampment. Our county officials are working now with charities and organizations that we're trying and regional to meet with other governments to try to see what we can do, but it's going to be tough.

SHAPIRO: You're suggesting that President Trump is doing this to make a political point. But could there be a purpose in letting somebody in a different part of the country feel the experience of what border counties in Texas and other border states have been dealing with for years now?

BOGEN: You know, the reason I feel it's politically motivated is because - we are happy to take in the 135 people. We could take in hundreds of people if there's funding, if there's resources. We will utilize our staff and our community to help these people. But when you bring 135 people each week with nothing - no organized plan, no discussion on how are we going to house them, feed them, take care of them - then it looks vindictive.

SHAPIRO: Mayor Bogen, thanks for speaking with us today.

BOGEN: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.