MIAMI (CNN) – While leaders in Cuba make preparations for Fidel Castro’s funeral, one top official in Miami says he’s preparing for another possibility: increased immigration.
Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho said the district is getting ready for a “potential influx of child and adult learners” after Castro’s death.
“We are ready to work with state and federal entities to secure the appropriate and necessary support to deliver educational services to all who, in light of today’s development, may arrive in our community,” Carvalho said in a statement Saturday.
“Just as we did during the 1980 Mariel Boatlift and the 1994 Cuban rafter exodus, this school district will continue its long-standing history of opening our arms to welcome, embrace, and educate all students.”
It’s unclear how Castro’s death will impact emigration from the island.
But a surge of immigrants from Cuba have already been making their way to the United States.
Experts say several factors are fueling a spike in the number of Cubans who brave dangerous journeys by land and by sea. Chief among them: fear that US policies that put Cubans on a fast track to legal residency could be repealed as relations between the two countries improve.
Could that happen? It’s possible, but the reason might have more to do with who’s in the White House then who’s at the helm in Cuba.
President-elect Donald Trump has threatened to undo efforts by President Barack Obama to bring the US and Cuba closer together, although he said some sort of a deal is “fine.”
He’s also slammed the Cuban Adjustment Act, which makes Cuban immigrants eligible to apply for a green card after a year and a day in the country.
Miami has been the epicenter of the Cuban exile community for decades.
More than 260,000 Cubans left in a US-organized airlift between 1965 and 1973. In 1980, Castro let another 125,000 leave in the chaotic Mariel boatlift. At other times, desperate Cubans have fled the island nation in makeshift boats across the treacherous Straits of Florida. Thousands died from drowning or exposure to the brutal Caribbean sun.
The trek remains dangerous, according to the US Coast Guard, and so far this year, thousands of people have made it.
“While there are not currently any indications of a mass migration, we are actively monitoring the situation and we have plans in place should we need to respond to one,” US Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Ryan Kelley said Monday.