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Miami-Dade School Board Preps For Influx Of Cuban Refugees

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) - The Miami-Dade School Board is bracing for what could be an overwhelming problem.

During Wednesday's meeting, the board supported Superintendent Alberto Carvalho's proposal that the school district join with the county's congressional delegation in "calling on the federal government to provide resources, logistics, and funding necessary to address the pending influx of Cuban refugees."

The school board said with the changing of U.S. relations with Cuba, thousands of refugees may be on the way and the school district, which is the fourth largest in the country, will need the extra money to accommodate their children.

Just before the start of the new year, several Central American countries reached a deal which will allow thousands of Cubans stranded in Costa Rica to continue their journey toward the U.S.

More than eight thousand Cubans were stranded in Costa Rica after Nicaragua closed its border to them.

On Tuesday, Costa Rica began airlifting Cubans to El Salvador. From there, they will be allowed to continue their journey North towards Mexico by bus.

Those making it to America will be allowed to stay and apply for permanent residency.

"Once in the U.S., they want to come to Miami," Carvalho told school board members.

Carvalho said Miami-Dade schools added 15,000 immigrant students last year and are on track to add possibly double that - many this year at a cost upwards of $80 million.

The mass migration comes as many Cuban migrants fear renewed relations between Cuba and the United States could bring an end to the "wet foot-dry foot" policy which allows Cubans to apply for residency if they reach the U.S. by land.

"They are by and large poor," Carvalho said of the Cuban refugees, and tens of thousands who have crowded Miami-Dade schools from other Latin American nations.  "They do not speak the language. They need to go into intensive programs that are costly," Carvalho said.

Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado said social services programs that help immigrant families are already maxed out.

"These people will fall through the cracks and they will be living on the streets," the mayor said.

So the school board and city cried out for help, as they face a moral and legal obligation to teach all newcomers.

"We must wrap our arms around them," said school board Vice Chair Dr. Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall. "I want to make sure that all children are taken care of."

All were in agreement that the federal government must step up to the plate.

"Immigration is a federal issue," Carvalho said. "Congress and the administration need to act and provide the needed support, financial support, to school systems like Miami-Dade's."

Click here to read more about U.S.- Cuba Relations.

(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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