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Congressional Leaders Call for Govt Plan On Cuban Migrants

by Carmen Sesin /
Image: Cuban migrants walk to the international gates at the Daniel Oduber International Airport in Liberia
Cuban migrants walk to the international gates at the Daniel Oduber International Airport in Liberia, Costa Rica, on Jan. 12, 2016. Juan Carlos Ulate / Reuters

MIAMI, FL -- Republican and Democratic Congressional leaders released a statement on Thursday calling for a federal plan to deal with the influx of Cuban migrants and the costs associated with absorbing them into society.

The statement came after a meeting with the Departments of Homeland Security, State, and Health and Human Services earlier in the day.

An estimated 8,000 Cuban migrants that have been stuck in Costa Rica recently began making their way to the U.S. where Cubans are granted special immigration status that allow them to obtain a green card one year and one day after being paroled. It’s assumed most will end up in South Florida. Local municipalities and social service agencies have been preparing for the migrants who already began to trickle in.

The Church World Service, a refugee assistance agency, is ready to deal with the surge in migrants, according to Oscar Rivera, director of the Miami office. He said he doesn’t foresee a situation like last summer where Cuban migrants were sleeping outdoors because refugee aid agencies were unable to help them until additional funding came in. Rivera says they currently have adequate funding.

Last month, the Miami-Dade County school district requested federal funding to cover the costs of new students. Thousands of Cuban students have enrolled in public schools during the past 6 months.

“Over the last several months, there has been a dramatic surge of people leaving the repressed island, yet it was only recently that the Obama administration acknowledged the problem,” said the statement released by Florida Republicans Mario Diaz-Balart, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and Carlos Curbelo.

The lawmakers requested the Obama administration communicate and work with them on a regular basis to find the best solution for the South Florida community.

“It is becoming apparent that municipalities in South Florida will have to handle the influx of migrants, and accordingly, we strongly encouraged the administration to collaborate closely with local officials to ensure that the federal response to the migrant crisis provides the necessary support to manage the increase in population and potential additional burdens on local resources,” the statement said.

Also present at the meeting were Congressmen Henry Cuellar (D-TX) and Albio Sires (D-NJ). Staff from the offices of Congresswomen Kay Granger (R-TX) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) were present as well as staff from Senators Bill Nelson, Bob Menendez and Republican Presidential candidate Marco Rubio.

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