The Department of Homeland Security is laying the groundwork for a plan to transport recent border crossers by plane to cities around the U.S. and release them after processing, according to two DHS officials familiar with the plan.
Local officials in South Florida said on Thursday that they were preparing for hundreds of immigrants to begin arriving in Broward County on a weekly basis.
Beyond South Florida, DHS is considering other areas around the country where immigrants can be released, the officials said.
One of the officials said they were looking at places with the capacity to process large numbers of immigrants, but declined to give further specifics on cities or regions under consideration.
Central American migrants who cross the U.S.-Mexico border must be processed before they can be released. Many make a claim for asylum, seeking the right to stay in the country to avoid persecution back home.
Customs and Border Protection would be responsible for identifying which migrants to put on planes bound for the interior of the country, and the agency would rely primarily on Immigration and Customs Enforcement airplanes.
There are no plans to detain migrants in the cities where they are released, the officials said. Officials in Broward County, Florida have expressed concern about migrants being released without "designated shelters or funding to house them, feed them, and keep them safe," according to a statement released Thursday.
A similar program is in place in Del Rio, Texas where immigrants have been airlifted from the Rio Grande Valley. CBP has said that the hundreds of immigrants released there are non-criminal families.
In both March and April, more than 100,000 undocumented immigrants crossed the border over the span of a month, numbers not seen in over 12 years.
Following news reports last month, President Donald Trump said he would consider sending immigrants specifically to so-called "sanctuary cities" — often led by Democrats — where officials have limited cooperation between local law enforcement and ICE. The officials said the decisions being made now on where to transport migrants are not political and would not specifically target sanctuary cities.
Spokespeople for the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection declined to comment on the plan to send immigrants to South Florida. They did not respond to a request for comment about a broader plan to fly immigrants to cities across the country.