January 4th, 2016 (ICR News) Officials in Miami, Florida are expressing their concerns over the imminent arrival of thousands of Cuban migrants who have been stranded in Costa Rica since November of last year, fearing that the crisis in Costa Rica will soon become their city’s own.
Some 8,000 Cubans have been stranded in Costa Rica since November when Nicaragua refused to allow the migrants to traverse its territory, but an accord between Central American nations on December 28th to airlift the Cubans over Nicaraguan territory, likely to El Salvador where they will then continue their journey by bus to the US border – means that over the coming weeks thousands of Cubans are expected to begin pouring over the United States’ border with Mexico to claim the automatic privileges extended to Cuban nationals to remain in the US under the Cuban Adjustment Act.
And, Miami officials say, most of them will be heading to their city.
Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado told Miami’s El Nuevo Herald on Sunday that local governments in the Miami area lack funds to provide assistance and welfare programs to this new wave of Cuban migrants.
“This will be another Mariel boatlift,” Regalado told the Herald, referring to the mass emigration of more than 120,000 Cubans on some 2,000 boats from their island nation to Florida in 1980, adding that local government does not have the financial resources to establish shelters for the thousands of Cubans headed their way.
And this time is different, Regalado stressed, because unlike the 1980 crisis when the US federal government took the lead in assisting the flood of immigrants, the federal government has so far not indicated that it has any intention of assisting the city and local governments with what some are now calling the second Cuban exodus.
“Many want to settle here [in the Miami area] for ease of language, access to work and because they have family [here],” another local official, Luis Gonzalez told the Herald. “But this is a matter in which the federal government should necessarily be involved and we have to wait and see what resources will be available to address this issue.”
The US State Department has so far remained tight-lipped on the issue and any potential involvement by the US in dealing with the crisis, both in Central America and ultimately after the Cubans’ arrival on US soil, where Cubans receive immediate asylum in that country under the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act.
Despite the current crisis, US State Department officials have said there are no plans to change the country’s immigration policy regarding Cuban nationals.
For her part, Cuban-American Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen places the blame for the current Cuban migrant crisis in Central America squarely on the Cuban government.
“We must always remember that the Castro regime is responsible for creating the crisis in Central America in order to distract attention from the many ills and hardships on the island and try to achieve even more concessions from the weak Obama government. Cubans see no future for themselves in their homeland even though Obama and [Secretary of State] Kerry are desperate to paint a false and rosy facade of diplomatic relations [between the two countries] that have not resulted in any improvement for the Cuban people,” she told the Herald.
Cuba, for its part said last week that the United States was to blame for the crisis, and called for the US to change its immigration policy toward Cuban nationals, a position that was supported in an editorial by the New York Times Editorial Board last month.
Meanwhile, the Costa Rican government, which has found itself stuck in the middle of the crisis, continues to bear the financial burden of caring for the thousands of Cubans stranded in its territory while final details of the planned airlift are finalized between Central American nations.
The Costa Rican government says it has so far spent well over US $2 million providing shelter, food, and medical care to the thousands of Cubans that remain stranded here.
Just over the weekend, another shelter to house some 200+ additional Cuban migrants was opened in El Roble, Puntarenas, near Costa Rica’s Pacific coast.
Sources tell ICR News that the first flight of Cubans out of Costa Rica could happen as early as this week. They will likely be flown out in groups of around 250 each, depending upon the type of aircraft available.
The migrants will be expected to pay for the flights, Costa Rican authorities said.