TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida's governor plans to fight a federal plan to fly hundreds of immigrants from the Mexican border to two South Florida counties, saying Friday 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 were notified by U.S. Border Patrol that about 1,000 migrants per month would be sent to the two counties starting in about two weeks.
"We cannot accommodate in Florida just dumping unlawful migrants into our state. I think it will tax our resources, the schools, the health care, law enforcement, state agencies," DeSantis told reporters in Sarasota after a bill signing ceremony.
DeSantis wasn't aware of the plans until county officials reported the information to the media. He said he was on the phone with the White House on Thursday.
"This was not something that came down from the White House. This was something that came out of the agency. Sometimes this stuff happens. It's gonna ultimately be something I'm going to have to talk to the president about," DeSantis said.
Trump and DeSantis have a close relationship. Trump's endorsement propelled DeSantis from underdog status to ultimate winner in last year's governor's race, and DeSantis has met with him several times in the White House, securing promises to increase hurricane aid and federal money for Everglades restoration.
DeSantis also noted that he recently signed a bill banning sanctuary cities and appeared upset that the plan to send immigrants to Florida came 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."
The federal government has run out of space to process the thousands of migrants who have been arriving at the Texas border, forcing them 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. That could be anywhere in the U.S., including going to the Latino communities of South Florida.
For migrants arriving in 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 are bracing for an influx.
The Palm Beach County Association of Chiefs of Police wrote a letter to the governor Thursday saying the migrant flight plans were an "unfunded mandate" that would have a "direct effect on the potential homeless numbers and present challenges to our school district."
Tim Gamwell is the assistant executive director of the Guatemalan-Maya Center, an organization that serves nearly 1,000 migrants from over 20 countries a month. He said it is important that Palm Beach County authorities and institutions play an active role in aiding any migrants who end up there.
"If this burden is not shared, if it's placed on small nonprofits and neighborhoods, there is no way that families are going to receive the services that they need without widespread community support," Gamwell said.
Gamwell said his organization already acts as a community service hub for migrants in Palm Beach County. It hosts food bank events, legal screening clinics and provides free and low-cost early childhood education programs for families, he said.
Ellis Rua in Miami contributed to this report.