By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
The U.S. State Department declined to comment on Hernandez's numerical estimates. And Seth Waxman, an associate deputy attorney general in the Justice Department, says, "There is no such plan" to bring a majority of the Cuban refugees into the United States in the next few months.
Other sources in the Clinton administration contend that Hernandez's estimates are overly optimistic. For one thing, although the Ad Hoc Committee has adeptly anticipated and sidestepped domestic political fallout, its plan does not address an even more daunting potential problem: A large influx of Cuban refugees into the U.S. might well inspire a renewal of the exodus. Further, administration sources say that under the current guidelines for admitting refugees (this past October President Clinton asserted that only elderly or extremely ill refugees, or families with children, would be allowed to enter the U.S.), no more than 10,000 detainees would be eligible, as opposed to Hernandez's estimate of up to 20,000. (Joe Pena, the governor's special assistant, says administration officials in Washington have told Chiles that the number likely would be between 6000 and 8000.) And although the federal government is considering broadening the criteria to include refugees who fear political persecution, sources predict that category will be so narrowly defined that it won't apply to more than 1000 additional people. Finally, refugees are to be screened on a case-by-case basis, a process that will take months, if not years, to complete. (Late this past Friday afternoon, after speaking with New Times, Justice Department officials issued a press release re-emphasizing federal policy.)
In fact, the Clinton administration is preparing to build permanent facilities to house 20,000 rafters at Guantanamo indefinitely -- or, as one official put it, "until Castro is gone.