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Transportation for migrants to Florida sought by feds

ICE estimates that approximately 45,000 unaccompanied minors and about 15,000 families will be transported per year.
Migrants seeking asylum in the United States receive breakfast from a group of volunteers near the international bridge in Matamoros, Mexico. [Eric Gay | AP]
Published May 20

Two days before two Florida counties expressed alarm that thousands of migrants could be dropped off in Florida, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement solicited a transportation provider to arrange ground and air transport for unaccompanied minors and migrant families across the country, records show.

Government documents show that ICE posted a pre-solicitation notice on its Federal Business Opportunities database on Tuesday. The website showed it was accepting bidders for the job.

The awarded contractor would be hired to drive and fly children — infants to 17 — as well as families, to detention centers, shelters, foster care “locations, or other necessary locations, as a direct result of their escort duties,” the one-year solicitation says.

Thousands of pages of documents detail how the contractor would book charter and commercial flights, as well as drive migrants, to detention centers “nationwide without delay.” This could include the Homestead detention center for unaccompanied minors, the largest of its kind in the country.

ICE and Customs and Border Protection did not immediately respond to emails from the Miami Herald on Saturday.

The contract opportunity was listed online just days before confusion and chaos gripped two South Florida counties this past week.

On Thursday, leaders of Broward and Palm Beach counties blasted a plan after they said they were told that 1,000 migrants would be sent to the region every month in order to alleviate a surge at the Mexican border.

On Sunday, a spokeswoman for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said President Donald Trump told the governor that border-crossing immigrants would not be sent to South Florida.

Earlier, Broward Mayor Mark Bogen told the Miami Herald that the Broward County Sheriff’s Office was given notice by U.S. Customs and Border Protection that 270 migrants would be flown in to Palm Beach and Broward counties every week starting in two weeks. That day, the government went ghost when flooded with questions by the local and national press. The Florida governor and members of Congress also said they weren’t notified by the administration.

The next day, U.S. Customs and Border Protection moved to downplay the possibility that planes filled with border-crossing families would begin touching down soon in Broward and Palm Beach counties.

They told reporters on Friday that there are no imminent plans to send thousands of undocumented immigrants to South Florida, as of now, but said families were being moved to Del Rio, Texas, and San Diego.

However, a CBP official — who spoke to reporters on the condition that he not be named — said the agency is looking at possibly sending “non-criminal” immigrant families to South Florida as well as other parts of the country where CBP offices have the computer capacity to process immigration cases.

“We cannot accommodate in Florida the dumping of unlawful migrants into our state. It will tax our resources, our schools, the healthcare, law enforcement, state agencies,” DeSantis said Friday, noting that the Legislature just passed a law banning so-called sanctuary cities.

“We’ve been very cooperative and to have this then put into certain communities here. I think it’s just something that we don’t ...” he said, pivoting quickly to a new point without finishing the thought.

DeSantis, who blamed the controversy on federal immigration policy coming from Congress, said Friday he’d “investigated” the issue but had not yet spoken with the president.

According to the document, ICE estimates that approximately 45,000 unaccompanied minors and about 15,000 families will be transported per year. Throughout fiscal years 2016, 2017 and 2018, ICE transferred more than “143,000 unaccompanied minors and family units from various cities to various locations.”

“ICE is seeking the services of a highly responsible contractor that fully embraces the philosophy of treating all [unaccompanied minors and [family units] with dignity and respect, while adhering to standard operating procedures and policies that allow for effective, efficient, and incident-free transport,” the solicitation says. “The Contractor shall provide unarmed escort staff, including management, supervision, manpower, training, certifications, licenses, drug testing, equipment, and supplies necessary to provide on-demand escort services for non-criminal/non-delinquent [children and families].”

-- Story by Monique O. Madan

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