The number of Cuban refugees entering South Florida passed the 100,000 mark yesterday as the U.S. government for the first time, arrested Cuban-Americans seeking to bring relatives and friends to the United States.
Officials arrested 74 passengers on the freighter Red Diamond V when it arrived in Key West yesterday with 731 refugees aboard.
Most of those arrested were Cuban-Americans or Cubans U.S. residency. They were released on bond and ordered to appear in court later this month on charges of bringing aliens without visas into this country.
The captain of the freighter which until Monday night was registered in Panama, was being held on $100,000 bond at Monroe County Jail in Florida.
The Red Diamond V had its Panamanian registry revoked at the request of the State Department, which is seeking to discourage other foreign captains from making similar trips. Another vessel with Panamanian registry is reported to be in Mariel harbor in Cuba.
For some of the refugees aboard the Red Diamond, their first impression of the United States -- after a 29-hour journey across heavy seas -- was poor.
"This is so sad. I can't believe I meet America this way," said Alfredo Gonzalez, whose uncle was one of those arrested.
But Gonzalez waited patiently outside the courtroom during the lengthy mass bond hearing.
"If my relatives can risk their lives by going over their for 30 days to get me, I can sit right here until they let my uncle go," he said.
"My mother went to pick me up," said Aurelio Soza, who waited outside the courthouse with his wife and children. "I can't understand it."
Neither could Gloria Maria Rosello, 27, who quit her radio job in California to go pick up a sister and her family in Cuba.
But she did not care. She was happy because part of her family had been allowed out of Cuba with her.
"If they give me a chance, I would jump on a shark and go back to pick up the rest of my family," she said.
"There's no logical reason for them to be arrested. They're just helping people," said Alejandro Guiterez, whose cousin, Manuel Cazares pickup Guiterez, his wife and their two children.
"I am leaving cuba, a terrible oppression, and I come here and see this. That is a bad first impression.
By 9 p.m. yesterday, 102,293 Cubans had arrived in Key West since the boatlift to Started April 21.
There were some signs that the boatlift might be ending.
But the resettlement efforts at Fort Chaffee, Ark., and other military centers continued to be plagued by the bureaucratic delays that led to a violent disturbance involving 300 Cubans over the weekend.
Congressional leaders such as Robert C. Byrd (D-W. Va.), the Senate majority leader, and Jim Wright (D-Tex.), his House counterpart, said that those who participated in the violence should be deported.
"The United States has no moral responsibility to give refuge to common criminals," Byrd said. Wright said he shares a State Department suspicion that Cuban President Fidel Castro infiltrated "professional agitators" to spark the violence.
FBI the spokesman Roger Young said agents at Fort Chaffee are checking, but have found no evidence to support that possibility.
Meanwhile, it was learned yesterday that several days of disagreement about legal points on the military's authority to use force against civilians preceded the Sunday night rioting.
Officials said yesterday that the Defense Department balked at first at being asked to play a role in keeping order in any possible civil disturbances and spent days discussing this with White House and Justice Department officials.
Traditionally the Army has stayed out of civilian peacekeeping duties. "That's fine if we had 2,000 U.S. marshals to do the job, but we don't," one Justice official said.
White House aide Eugene Eidenberg said he did not learn until Monday morning that the Army commander at Fort Chaffee lacked explicit operational orders authorizing him to use physical force, if necessary, to keep the Cubans in the camp.
Eidenberg said he had not been aware that such additional orders were necessary and that when he found this out, "we did it in a matter of hours."
The legal delays apparently were centered in the Pentagon. Togo D. West Jr., the Defense Department's general counsel, said, "We wanted to make sure we were on firm ground" before approving orders authorizing the use of physical force against civilians.
But when "the circumstances became more pressing" because of the rioting, West said, "it was clear then that whatever authority we had should be invoked."
Justice officials said it is unclear what actions will be taken against those Cubans who participated in the violence. "If federal crimes were committed, the U.S. attorney can bring charges," one official said. "But I don't want to say that would be a basis for exclusion."
Meanwhile, the Immigration and Naturalization Service began hearings yesterday to determine if some of the 655 Cubans being detained as criminals or the 47 others found mentally ill should be expelled from the country, a spokesman said.
Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.) said yesterday that the disturbance at Chaffee could unleash an anti-Cuban backlash in the United States.
David Lewis, who heads the U.S. Catholic Conference's effort at Chaffee to find sponsors for the Cubans, said yesterday that the current dispute over the resettlement difficulties is ironic because the pace is much faster now than it was for the first wave of Vietnamese refugees in 1975.
The average stay for Vietnamese in military camps was about 100 days, while most Cubans have been at Chaffee or one of the other centers for only a few weeks. "The problem, of course, is that the Vietnamese were in shock from the war and didn't know where they were or wanted to go. A lot of the Cubans have relatives here and know exactly where they want to go," Lewis said.
Complicating the problem is the lack of coordination in processing between the volunteer agencies such as the Catholic Conference and the federal authorities.
For instance, an INS spokesman said nearly 9,000 Cubans at Chaffee have completed federal security checks and are awaiting sponsors, while Lewis said he has sponsors for more than 4,700 refugees who don't have INS clearances yet. The problem is that the list of names isn't being processed at the same time, he said.
Administration officials involved in trying to manage the Cuban influx have scheduled a briefing for key members of Congress this morning to discuss options for a policy decision on the status and benefits for the newcomers.
"The problem is not the INS processing or the Catholic Conference finding sponsors, it's the lack of a true policy for dealing with these people," one congressional refugee expert said.