Florida officials yesterday gave the Carter administration and the federal government a zero rating for their handling of the Cuban and Haitian refugees who have inundated that state recently.
At a meeting here of the National Association of Counties task force on refugee policy, Victor Palmieri, the State Department's coordinator for refugee affairs, at first defended the administration's approach to funding refugee benefits. But later, he gave his support to a bill sponsored by Sen. Dick Stone (D-Fla.) that would place all of the financial burden on the federal government.
The administration is seeking to have the cost shared by the state, local and federal governments, with the federal share amounting to 75 percent of some benefits.
Critics contend that this loophole means that the federal government would be funding significantly less than 75 percent of all benefits.
The administration last month created a special category for dealing with the illegal Cuban and Haitian immigrants to bypass the provisions of the 1980 Refugee Act, which calls for full federal reimbursement of local costs.
The newcomers were given "indefinite parole," allowing them to stay in this country for about a year. This allows the administration to get past the November election before having to send legislation to Congress clarifying the refugees' legal status.
At yesterday's meeting, Commissioner Harvey Ruvin of Dade County, which has borne the brunt of Florida's refugee influx, accused the government of sanctioning the migration and then "turning its back" on the ensuing financial burden.
Ruvin and other state officials said that middle-income taxpayers are angered at having to pay millions of dollars for health-care and social services for the refugees.
Thus far this year, Dade County has spent $22 million on the illegal immigrants, Ruvin said. The county estimates that the influx will add 14,000 to 20,000 students to school rosters this fall, at a cost of $24 million to $60 million.
The approximately 150,000 immigrants who have entered this country illegally through Florida recently also are creating a problem for the nation's unemployed, who must compete with them for jobs.
The refugees have created a subterranean economy because they are willing to work below the minimum wage," said Eileen Maloney, a federal jobs administrator in Miami. "This creates tension with the black community."