Miami-Dade ready to ‘absorb’ thousands of Cubans stranded in Central America
Fabiola Santiago: Miami-Dade ready to ‘absorb’ thousands of Cubans
stranded in Central America
No regime change, but Cuba emergency plan in place for exodus
41,000 already in U.S.; 8,000 stranded expected to arrive
Criticism of ‘first-class’ status while other immigrants deported
BY FABIOLA SANTIAGO
How ironic is this juncture: The multi-agency emergency plan to deal
with a regime change in Cuba is being dusted off to tackle another exodus.
The now 8,000 Cubans stranded in Central America were told that they (or
their families abroad) can buy a San Jose-Mexico City plane ticket, then
take a bus to the U.S. border — and announce their arrival for
Miami, the capital of Cuban exiles, has no option but to stand ready for
Not everyone has family in the United States — and although the mayor of
Miami is concerned that the city’s not prepared, at the county, there’s
confidence. Que vengan. Let them come.
Miami-Dade stands prepped to receive the country-hopping Cuban
immigrants who end up here, a top county official tells me.
“We’re keenly aware,” Curtis Sommerhoff, the county’s director of
Emergency Management says. “There is a federal plan, a state plan, and a
local plan. Local is a humanitarian plan.”
Conceived after the balsero crisis of 1994 to handle immigration
resulting from a Cuba regime change, there are no qualms about putting
the plan to work on behalf of a continuing exodus of disaffected Cubans
who don’t want to wait around for what may never come — and don’t want
to lose out on residency privileges conferred by U.S. immigration law
only to Cubans.
In the last fiscal year, 41,000 Cubans made it by crossing the Mexican
border or arriving in South Florida in homemade boats. At one point, so
many arrived that refugee resettlement agencies were maxed out. Some
Cubans ended up homeless in Miami and Doral, where one agency is
located. The county offered to house the Cubans with the help of the
Homeless Trust. They refused, opting to sleep on the street until
Cuban-American Samaritans appeared with better options, which happened.
Sommerhoff points to the handling of 26,000 Haiti earthquake victims in
2010 as an example of successful handling of a sudden influx. The
assumption was that all were coming to Miami-Dade, he says, but
thousands went to New York and Los Angeles. Only 7,000 required
assistance from Florida, although 14,000 resettled here. So, “8,000 over
a span of time when they do have family members here, you know, at a
reasonable rate, our community has the ability to absorb that very
well,” Sommerhoff says. “For people with children, we’ll have to work
well with Miami-Dade Schools addressing that.”
After the announcement that the Cubans would be able to realize their
expectations that the U.S. would open its doors, some were calling the
treatment “first-class immigration.”
It was no compliment — and no wonder.
In the same breadth that the deal for a “humanitarian” resolution for
the stranded Cubans was reached, the Obama administration announced that
it will resume this month the deportation of undocumented Central
Americans — among them parents of U.S.-born children, relatives of
DREAMer students enrolled in schools. They’re immigrants who, like the
Cubans, want to build better lives for their families.
If history serves as meter, a second act to the new Cuban immigration
will follow in 2016. A year of friendly relations later, the 57-year-old
dictatorship shows no signs of democratization — but flight is guaranteed.
Fabiola Santiago: , @fabiolasantiago
Source: Fabiola Santiago: Miami-Dade ready to ‘absorb’ thousands of
Cubans stranded in Central America | Miami Herald –