Florida Prepares for Possible Mass Migration

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Florida Prepares for Possible Mass Migration



DORAL, Fla. (March 7) - More than 85 federal and local law enforcement agencies kicked off a two-day exercise Wednesday to prepare for a possible mass migration from the Caribbean - such as could occur following a change in government in Cuba.

'Don't Take to the Sea'

Despite Cuba's plan to succeed Fidel Castro with his brother, U.S. officials worry about a mass exodus like the 1980 Mariel boatlift.

The training calls for the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and other agencies to respond to a simulation in which more than 2,000 Cubans take to the seas headed for South Florida.

The exercise is the largest such training since a 2003 presidential directive created the Homeland Security Task Force Southeast to better police the nation's southeastern borders.

"The exercise will show our unity," said task force director Rear Adm. David W. Kunkel, "and it demonstrates our federal government's resolve to protect our borders."

Kunkel told reporters at the Miami-Dade County emergency operations center that he began planning a review of the region's readiness for mass migration last April, shortly after taking the helm of the Seventh Coast Guard District. That was before Cuba announced President Fidel Castro was ill in July and would hand off power to his brother Raul.

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Cuba experts have voiced concern in recent months that Castro's death or a significant change in the island's leadership could spark migrations similar to the Mariel boat crisis in 1980. During that period, Castro temporarily opened up the island's borders, and more than 125,000 Cubans fled the country, taking U.S. officials by surprise. Many who reached the U.S. were held in makeshift camps for months.

Kunkel recalled flying helicopters over Key West during the crisis as the government scrambled to respond.

"That's a picture as vivid in mind today as it was then," he said, adding that he hoped the exercises would help law enforcement agencies identify areas where they are still lacking.

Toward that end, planners threw curveballs Wednesday, telling officials they had to respond to at least one migrant arriving with an undisclosed virus.

Kunkel said the goal of the exercise was to stop 95 percent of the simulated migrants at sea. Although officials were attempting to respond to a situation in which more than 2,000 immigrants were headed to the U.S., in reality, only about a dozen or more actors posing as migrants were expected to take part in the training.

Officials emphasized that the exercise was in no way a sign that the U.S. would give tacit approval to a real mass migration.

"We would not be good stewards of the United States if we didn't plan accordingly," Kunkel said, he said but added: "The message is clear. Don't take to the sea. It's dangerous and, by the way, it's illegal."


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Jimmy, current estimates are up to 1000 people a day exiting Cuba at night via a mix of launches and high speed motorboats. High speed motorboats are the preferred option beacuse of safety. The only thing that can really go wrong is mechanical breakdown.

Passage on a high speed motorboat costs 1000 CUC ( Cuba Convertible Pesos which is about $1200 USD).

For those with the money, it is never far from their mind. Everyone in Cuba (particularly Havana) knows of several friends who have taken the risk.

They are also very aware that once they land in the US or elsewhere, the problems begin anew. Unless they have family willing to help, there are issues such as work, accommodation as well as any ramifications for family left behind. By ramifications, it is not necessarily state ramifications but the reality that the person was an integral part in supporting their family. Again, not a big problem if you have several brothers and sisters in Cuba who can bare the load to support mum, dad/ grand parents. If not, then you are hesitant to leave.

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