INS will lend hand in Florida’s future mass migration difficulties

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The federal government will have to handle and pay for any future mass migrations to Florida under an agreement signed Monday by Gov. Lawton Chiles.
The deal is the first between the federal government and a state that provides for a joint response to a mass influx of aliens, said Doris Meissner, commissioner of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.
The agreement comes four years after hundreds of Cubans and Haitians tried to come ashore every day in south Florida.
“Four years ago, I declared a state of emergency in south Florida … because the federal government failed to adequately enforce U.S. immigration law and protect the state of Florida,” Chiles said.
“Today I’m declaring victory because the federal government is stepping up and will assume full responsibility for future mass migration response operations.”
Under the agreement, INS will be the lead agency and may ask for help from Florida — but will reimburse the state for its costs.
“The way to deal with such a situation is a coordinated response where the federal government takes the lead,” Ms. Meissner said.
Four years ago, some 30,000 Cubans came to south Florida. State officials estimated costs climbed to $50 million, but Florida received just $18 million from a federal immigration emergency fund.
Under the agreement, federal immigration officials in south Florida will have the power to move staff and resources to Florida without having to wait for approval from Washington.