Palm Beach County Mayor Prepares For Potential Migrants' Arrival

May 17, 2019

Before the end of the month, the federal government plans to send hundreds of migrants from the U.S.-Mexico border plans to Broward and Palm Beach counties, according to South Florida leaders.

Officials in both counties say they are concerned the Trump administration’s plan puts a burden on their already strapped resources. Broward and Palm Beach  are preparing to receive up to 135 migrants twice a week in each county, beginning in two weeks.

Governor Ron DeSantis' office told WLRN it was not informed of the decision, adding that  Florida counties do not have the housing, food, and other resources to accommodate the potential influx of people.

On the South Florida Roundup, host Tom Hudson and a panel of journalists spoke with Palm Beach County Mayor Mack Bernard about the county's next steps. 

Here's an excerpt of their conversation:

MAYOR MACK BERNARD: We've been in constant communication with our federal counterparts to give us the exact facts that we're going to be dealing with. So, we're getting fluid information, and right now we've been told that within the next two weeks Palm Beach County will receive 135 individuals. They're going to be dropped off in Palm Beach County with no food, no shelter, and no resources whatsoever.
 
WLRN: Any idea if these individuals will have family in South Florida?
 
We're not sure exactly if any of these individuals have families or ties to Palm Beach County. We believe that some of them probably have said they may have a friend who lives in Palm Beach County or Broward. However, there's nothing specific in terms of having any ties to Palm Beach County.
 
What kinds of preparations are underway on behalf of the county? Let's tackle housing to begin with.
 
First of all, we're trying to create more affordable housing in Palm Beach County. Now with the government shifting this responsibility, we're going to have to see how we can provide housing for those individuals. We're looking at all of our public buildings right now to see how we can provide housing and food to those individuals.
 
What do you mean by looking at your public buildings?
 
We have public buildings in Palm Beach County we're looking at. These public buildings are not in operation right now. We want to see if we can turn them into any type of shelter situation for those individuals.

Shifting that responsibility for us and then to deal with the individuals is not fair to the taxpayers of Palm Beach County. - Mack Bernard, mayor of Palm Beach County

Can you give us an example?
 
We have an old stockade site out west. So, we're looking at that, and our emergency management team is meeting at 2 o'clock today [Friday]. So they can see all of the different options. Then for us, we can determine exactly what can be brought to the board. But we don't have much time because this is something that's going to happen within the next two weeks.
 
I'd like you to kind of compare and contrast this to preparations for a hurricane. I only use that comparison because of the time constraint that you're under in Palm Beach County. I'm certainly not equating at all an influx of migrants to a natural disaster. That's not my point. My point is just the preparation that needs to take place on the part of the county.
 
In terms of dealing with a hurricane, this is something that we plan for as soon as hurricane season begins. We start planning and gearing up for hurricane season. We do dry runs; we make sure that we work with our electrical companies, just to make sure that we're prepared to take care of our residents. What we hope is that the federal government does come up with a plan on how they want to deal with this situation. But, shifting that responsibility for us and then to deal with the individuals is not fair to the taxpayers of Palm Beach County.
 
Do you have an active dialogue right now with the Border Patrol?
 
Yes. Our sheriffs have been communicating with Border Patrol and Sen. Rick Scott. Sen. Rubio's office is also working in terms of getting the exact facts and getting an exact answer. So, in that way, Palm Beach County will be prepared to address this situation.