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Cuban Mass Migration

Mass migration is a current topic of debate because of the recent developments of unaccompanied children crossing the southern US border and the Middle Eastern refugees fleeing into Europe. Another lurking possibility is that Raul Castro might imitate his brother’s previous actions in the 1980 Mariel Boatlift in which more than 100,000 Cuban citizens came to South Florida in a matter of a few months.

Hidden in this deluge of humanity was the fact that Fidel Castro emptied his prison and mental health populations into the mass migration. Ian Smith, an attorney working for the Immigration Reform Law Institute, posits that Raul Castro is likely preparing to launch another mass migration similar to the Mariel Boatlift (Smith, 2016).

Mr. Smith cautions that the current situation is similar to that of 1980 because Raul Castro is pushing the U. S. President to liberalize sanctions, just as his brother Fidel had done previously, and falling sugar prices are destabilizing Cuba’s economy, just as occurred in 1980; moreover, President Obama faces a similar vulnerable human rights agenda, just as President Carter faced previously, which basically trapped him into accepting the refugees rather than appearing hypocritical (Smith, 2016). Should the US face another mass migration event from Cuba, then the roles and responsibilities of the U. S. military must be examined by considering the following four categories: (1) Strategy, (2) Support, (3) Defense, and (4) Civil Authorities.

The first role of the military starts by forming a strategy. The President, as commander in chief determines the strategy for the military, which is termed the National Security Strategy (NSS). President Obama established the current NSS in February of 2015. Unlike the Bush Doctrine, which emphasized ground wars against terrorism, the Obama NSS has deemphasized ground wars, noting that the US has transitioned away from the large ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and reduced ground forces from nearly 180,000 to fewer than 15,000.

The current NSS emphasizes renewing European and Asian alliances. Additionally, the NSS discusses several top strategic risks that will receive priority. For example, the national interests should prevent catastrophic attacks on US territory or critical infrastructure, restrain the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and address the pressing problem of climate change (Obama, 2015) The second role of military support for civilian authorities in the US dates back to the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906.

Walter Neal Anderson, a Senior Advisor to the Department of Homeland Security, posits that residents of this devastated city were so overjoyed to receive military assistance that the famous rallying cry from this catastrophe was: “Thank God for the Boys in Blue! ” (Anderson, 2014). Currently, Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA) is defined as: “Support provided . . . in response to requests for assistance from civil authorities for domestic emergencies, law enforcement support, and other domestic activities, or from qualifying entities for special events” (Anderson, 2014).

Domestic emergencies include disaster and declared emergencies, such as natural disasters (earthquakes and hurricanes), man-made disasters (oil spills and gas leaks), and CBRNE incidents (nuclear attacks or chemical weapons). Designated law enforcement activities comprise supporting and restoring public health and civil order following civil disturbances (riots), border-immigration security issues (mass migrations) and counter-terrorism and counterdrug measures (Mexican drug war).

Lastly, the final component of this definition covers other activities, which are national special security events, such as the Super Bowl (Super Bowl 50), inaugural support (Presidential inaugurations), and national conventions (Republican or Democrat National Conventions). The third role of military in DSCA activities is defense. The primary entities available for civil support are the National Guard, the US Northern Command, and the Reserves. The National Guard is the only one of these where the President shares command status because of the unique way the National Guard is split into three separate duty statuses.

If deployed in State Active Duty status, then the governor retains command and control, and the individual state pays for the use of the troops. Similarly, if deployed pursuant to Title 32, then the governor still retains command and control, but the federal government pays for the operations. The final option is to deploy troops pursuant to Title 10 in which the President retains command and control, and the federal government funds the activity. A primary advantage of the National Guard is that they possess local knowledge.

They are often used in disaster relief, border security, personnel and logistics, WMD, and CBRNE. Following 9/11 the President created the United States Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) as a military authority responsible for homeland defense and to provide support of civil authorities. Its primary functions are logistics, personnel, equipment, and intelligence. This marked the first time since George Washington that a single military commander held responsibility for domestic defense (Anderson, 2014).

The last major defense entity offering civil support is the Reserves. All four of the military services have a reserve component. While these troops can offer a full range of support and possess local knowledge, deploying reserve troops entails complex rules. The fourth and final role of the military in DSCA functions explores civil authorities, which comprises the laws and policies that guide DSCA.

The DSCA philosophy is codified in DoD Directive 3025. 8 which establishes the following 5 key provisions: (1) DoD is always in support of civil authorities; (2) Civil resources receive primary consideration and are used first; (3) Missions are limited in scope and duration; (4) Civil authorities must first submit a a Request for Assistance (RFA), which must be approved, prior to DoD performing DSCA operations; and (5) Support for the RFAs should be provided on a cost reimbursable basis in accordance with the provisions of either the Stafford or Economy Acts ( Anderson, 2014).

In addition to the above criteria, the Pentagon evaluates all RFA’s for DSCA according the the following 6 elements: (a) Legality, which concerns complying with applicable laws; (b) Lethality, which considers the potential use of lethal force; (c) Risk, which addresses the safety of military forces; (d) Cost, which considers the impact on the DoD budget; (e) Appropriateness, which evaluates whether the RFA conforms to the DoD’s interest; and (f) Readiness, which prioritizes the RFA in comparison to other primary missions (Anderson, 2014).

Another overarching civil authority that permeates all of these considerations is the Posse Comitatus Act, which prohibits military involvement in civilian law enforcement matters unless authorized by law (The Posse Comitatus Act, 1878). While Posse Comitatus applies to the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps, the National Guard comprises differing Posse Comitatus results depending on which status the troops are deployed. The State Active Duty status and Title 32 status are not subject to Posse Comitatus; however, Title 10 status does entail Posse Comitatus restrictions.

In conclusion, applying the four main roles and responsibilities of the US military of strategy, support, defense, and civil authorities within the context of a Cuban mass migration scenario reveals potential problems in interagency coordination. As previously discussed, the strategy of the US as set forth by President Obama will likely contribute to the advent of a Cuban mass migration. If this occurs, then the Coast Guard would face the dilemma of how to assist thousands of refugees without violating the current Wet Foot/Dry Foot policy established by President Clinton, which was not in effect at the time of the Mariel Boatlift.

The current policy requires the Coast Guard to intercept and return any Cuban citizens found at sea who have not yet placed their “foot” on dry land. However, if over 100,000 refugees again attempt to travel by sea, then the Coast Guard would face tremendous humanitarian pressure to help what would be countless cases of refuges facing drowning situations. Within the support category, the mass migration event will definitely task local law enforcement with the sheer number of people involved.

Exacerbating the already strained local services will be the likely event that Cuba would copy its previous tactic of emptying its prisons as it did during the Mariel Boatlift. Determining which of the refuges is a dangerous criminal will pose interagency coordination problems between local law enforcement and the Immigration Department. Additional potential coordination issues are where to shelter the massive amount of people, how to provide proper medical care and screening for such a large populace, and how to provide adequate food, water, and clothing for a newly arrived mass of people.

The Red Cross and other non-governmental agencies would have to be coordinated. Concerning the defense choice, the governor will likely immediately declare a state of emergency and call up the National Guard in State Active Duty status. As previously noted, however, the state of Florida would have to fund this operation, and the costs would quickly exceed the state’s budget. The governor would then look to civil authorities for a solution to the exorbitant costs. The governor would seek to obtain Title 32 status for the National Guard because they would not face Posse Comitatus restrictions and the federal government would fund the operation.

Moreover, the governor would request a Presidential State of Emergency, pursuant to the Stafford Act, in order to receive additional federal assistance. In the final analysis, while South Florida would face numerous interagency coordination problems if faced with another Cuban mass migration, it is better prepared for response and recovery than it was during the Mariel Boatlift because of advances in DSCA operations. The end result will be that lives will be saved.

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