WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. —
Palm Beach County’s mayor, administrator and other officials held a closed meeting Friday afternoon to come up with a plan for an anticipated influx of thousands of illegal migrants.
"We will not be able to allow individuals to come into our community and be released and have no idea on the basic services that any human being should be afforded," said County Administrator Verdenia Baker.
Baker said all options for housing were still on the table, from schools to tent cities to unused buildings, but they needed to be long-term solutions.
She said no one has heard officially from the federal government that the expected 500 migrants per month are actually coming.
If they do arrive in two weeks, as Sheriff Ric Bradshaw said he was told by the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol in Miami, they will be transported to the Border Patrol facility in Riviera Beach, processed, given a notice to appear in court and then released.
The idea worries business owner Rob Damiano, who said the county is already struggling with a homeless problem.
"I believe everybody deserves to have a chance but my concern is: Who’s coming here? Are they criminals, part of MS-13? Are they drug addicts?" said Damiano.
Carpenter T.J. Survelis said he saw how badly a similar situation affected California.
"When I lived in San Diego, they would come over the border all the time. It crowds everything. There would be tent cities everywhere. You don’t want that. There’s no place to put them. Bringing them to Riviera Beach, it’s not like a good place to live," said Survelis.
Bradshaw said he was told the people who would be sent had requested Florida because of family connections.
Elcias Soto, who migrated here from Guatemala years ago agreed it is critical for a migrant to have family or friends waiting to help.
"When I came to America, it was hard," he said. "You have to have someone say, ‘Here, live with me. I’ll help you.’"