Immigration crisis spreads towards the Suncoast

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SARASOTA, Fla. -- As tens of thousands of immigrants, many of them children, flood the border, residents on the Suncoast worry the crisis could soon be at our door steps.

"It’s actually human dumping that taking place," said community activist Rich Swier. Swier is talking about the thousands of undocumented men women and children fleeing Central America for the U.S., and he's worried many of those them will soon end up on the Suncoast.

"They're seeing other communities without the knowledge of their local elected officials suddenly being put up on by the federal government to provide facilities that were never planned or prepared for and they don’t want to see that happen in Sarasota County."

According to the current law, those detained at the border must be released to the Department of Health and Human Services after three days and housed until a hearing date, at which point they can plead their case to stay into the county. But that process could take some time.

"Under the current backlogs in the system, even without this new humanitarian crisis and the number of people here, there already is back log at least a year or two years."

The situation has resulted in an increased need to house the influx of undocumented immigrants.

A map published by Numbers USA has areas on the Suncoast listed as possible locations to house the refugees; but attorney Victoria Karina says they have not heard that. Karina says if the plans are indeed in the works, however, area residents should be open to the idea.

“Most people wouldn’t make such a journey unless they were really at, I guess, their last hope; and I think for humanitarian purposes we have a duty not just as Americans but as human beings to help."

But confirmed or not, Swier wants to stress that Sarasota and other cities should not be an option.

“I think the best way to look at it is like your home...what if you were sitting in your living room and 20 people broke in, and they broke in and expected you to feed them, give them medical care and pay for their education. How would you feel about that?"

We reached out to the Sarasota jail to see they were contacted, and Sheriff Knight said so far no one has reached out to them to house the influx of undocumented immigrants—but if they do, he will not approve of the move.