Deep down, America is waiting for – one might even say craving – the death of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. But the transition from dictator to dictator can be messy, and that could spell bad news for Florida.
Florida’s state government has been working with the federal government in order to create a contingency plan to prevent an exodus of refugees from Cuba once Castro dies. While Fidel’s brother Raul might assume power seamlessly, it’s possible he won’t. Even if he did, the post-Fidel political environment might turn the already steady stream of refugees from Cuba into a torrent. It’s possible that the torrent will be so massive that Florida’s infrastructure won’t be able to handle it.
As of now, the policy is called “wet foot, dry foot.” Cuban refugees, generally in makeshift vessels, who make the 90-mile trek to the shores of America are generally allowed to stay in the United States, provided they make it to solid ground without being caught. If the Coast Guard spots them en route, however, they are sent home.
But it is possible South Florida could face a sharp increase in the number of refugees when Fidel dies. According to Media General News Service, Florida could be facing an influx of half a million or more Cubans.
Of course, according to Andy Gomez, a senior fellow at the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American studies at the University of Miami, the government isn’t planning as well as it should. Gomez told Media General the government is expecting 8,000-10,000 refugees at any one time, but he thinks that number is far too low. Gomez thinks the number of Cubans fleeing to America could be as high as 500,000 in the first year.
This is not good, for obvious reasons. Florida will not allow its state and federal government to send a half million people back to a wretched communist state. However, Florida won’t be happy if its social infrastructure is threatened, either.
What needs to happen is for Florida, with federal help, to prepare for the worst while hoping for the best. After all, America was built on influxes of refugees. The fact that these Cuban masses yearning to be free will likely land in Florida, far from the iconic Statue of Liberty, does not diminish the tradition of inclusion that America should aspire to maintain.