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HomeGeneralMigrant Influx Raises Concerns in Predominantly Hispanic US City

Migrant Influx Raises Concerns in Predominantly Hispanic US City

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Source: Chicago Sun-Times

In under a week since crossing the U.S.-Mexico border and journeying to Florida, Joseliel Montilla, accompanied by his wife and their five-year-old daughter, stood outside the Department of Children & Families outpost in Hialeah on a chilly February morning. Their family, not for lack of alternatives but to beat the daily rush, had spent the night there, awaiting refugee benefits application.

Originally from Artemisa, Montilla described their escape from “misery and persecution in Cuba.” They found solace in Hialeah, where his sister had settled two years prior, renting a two-bedroom apartment to accommodate the newly arrived relatives from the island.

Amid a historic surge at the border, Montilla’s family represents a portion of migrants who opted to call this majority-Cuban city of about 250,000 homes in northwest Miami-Dade County. However, this influx is becoming divisive, with Mayor Esteban Bovo, Jr. attributing some of the city’s woes, including housing affordability issues, to the newcomers.

Bovo cited a figure of 80,000 Cubans settling in Hialeah over two years, comparable to the “Mariel on steroids” phenomenon of 1980. He speculated that at least half of the 420,000 Cuban migrants arriving in the U.S. during this period may have made their way to Hialeah.

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ALSO READ: Residents Reveal Details About Thriving Illegal Migrant Operations at the Northern US Border

But immigration attorney Wilfredo Allen questions the accuracy of Bovo’s claim that 75% of Cubans entering the U.S. settle in South Florida, saying that many Cubans opt for other states where jobs are more plentiful and housing more accessible.

“I see from my clients that many of the Cubans who are entering the U.S. go to Kentucky, Texas, Iowa, and even Nebraska, mainly in small towns with large slaughterhouses and food factories,” said Allen. “There is job availability, and housing in those states is cheaper.”

Despite the mayor’s claims, there’s uncertainty surrounding the exact number of migrants drawn to Hialeah for reunions or familiarity in their new environment. City officials organizing immigration workshops are investigating potential links between the surge in population and rising crime rates, as well as the housing crunch. This includes instances where property owners are resorting to parking campers outside their homes for rent.

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POLL — Should the U.S. Government Create a Path to Citizenship for Undocumented Immigrants?

Hialeah’s plight mirrors challenges faced by other U.S. cities grappling with immigration surges. However, its unique demographic makeup, predominantly Hispanic and Cuban, amplifies the debate.

Mayor Bovo’s rhetoric, though not as extreme as some counterparts, underscores concerns about accommodating newcomers amid resource constraints. Meanwhile, the city’s efforts to quantify the migrant influx and its impact continue, with plans for collaboration with federal and state agencies.

As discussions persist, some new arrivals, like Ener Alonso, a 26-year-old bartender from Matanzas who says he came to the United States two years ago to flee political persecution, are frustrated by the conversation.

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ALSO READ: Residents Reveal Details About Thriving Illegal Migrant Operations at the Northern US Border

“As a migrant, I don’t want the government to support me,” Alonso said. “That’s how many people think. Because they come to work to do something.” Mayor Bovo echoes a similar sentiment; Bovo says the city is simply trying to manage its affairs.

“They’re welcome. No one is trying to kick anybody out,” he said, arguing that the stress migration placed on Hialeah has been overlooked. “We know what it does in New York and Chicago. We see that all the time, but we don’t know what happens in a place like Hialeah. How do we handle it?”

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