The Trump administration plans to release hundreds of asylum-seeking migrants detained at the southern border to both Broward and Palm Beach counties in Florida every month, according to local officials who say they have been informed by the federal government.
"Hundreds of immigrants will be arriving in Broward County on a weekly basis without designated shelters or funding to house them, feed them, and keep them safe," county officials said in a statement posted online Thursday.
The news has sent local officials scrambling to figure how to house and feed potentially thousands of migrants.
"This is a humanitarian crisis. We will do everything possible to help these people. If the President will not provide us with financial assistance to house and feed these people, he will be creating a homeless encampment," Broward Mayor Mark Bogen said in a statement.
As of late Thursday, there was no official announcement from the Trump administration and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) did not respond to requests for comment.
Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch, whose district includes portions of both counties, said there was "a stunning amount of confusion surrounding the administration's 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," he added.
President Trump has said that he was considering releasing asylum-seeking migrants in localities known as "sanctuary cities," to punish Democrats who oppose his hardline immigration policies. Sanctuary cities are jurisdictions where local law enforcement officials limit their cooperation with federal immigration authorities. Officials in Broward and Palm Beach counties say the sanctuary label does not apply to them.
The lack of information from the administration left even its supporters in the dark.
"Unlawful arrivals are overwhelming our system," Republican Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted, saying he had heard about the plan from the Palm Beach sheriff that as many as 500 migrants a month would be released in Broward and Palm Beach, pending their asylum hearings.
In a follow-up tweet, Rubio said he has written a letter to DHS Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan asking for details about the reported release plan.
Word of the plan also caught Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis off guard, the Miami Herald reports.
Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw said he was notified of the plan by the Miami-based office of the U.S. Border Patrol, The Associated Press reports.
"This is irresponsible policy," said Mayor Bogen, noting that local leaders have not yet had a chance to prepare for the influx of migrants who likely will become homeless. "I would suggest, that we bring them to the Trump hotels and ask the President to open his heart and home as well."