U.S. homeland security officials say they are preparing for a remote, but real possibility: that the death of Fidel Castro could trigger a mass migration from the island nation, landing refugees in detention centers in Florida, Texas and beyond.
At least that's one of several worst-case scenarios that federal officials weighed Tuesday at the start of a simulated exercise aimed at gauging the ability of the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies to respond to a potential rafter crisis.
Coast Guard Rear Adm. David W. Kunkel, director of the Homeland Security Task Force Southeast, which led the two-day exercise, stressed that the U.S. government is not predicting that Castro's death will destabilize Cuba and spark a massive wave of migration. But, he said, ''We don't want to be caught flat-footed."
A federal plan to contain a possible exodus from Cuba has been under review for 18 months and will need final approval from Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. On Tuesday, federal officials declined to disclose many details of the plan, but said they are confident it will curb a wave of migration.
Some state and local officials said they hope that's true, but if migrants get past the first line of defense, they worry that Florida could see a repeat of the Mariel Boatlift, a chaotic exodus from Cuba in 1980 that brought 125,000 Cubans to the U.S., most to Florida's shores
Source [ Chron ]