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Not All Nicaraguans Welcoming The Newcomers

January 14, 1989

MIAMI (AP) _ Hundreds of Nicaraguans and other Central Americans seeking a promised land are pouring into this haven for immigrants, but some who settled in the area after the 1979 Sandinista revolution are wary of the newcomers.

″Some of the Nicaraguans here have mixed feelings about those who stayed with the Sandinistas,″ said Maritza Herrera, head of the Nicaraguan-Amer ican Foundation.

″They are people from the farm areas, with a different orientation,″ said the Rev. Leon Pallais, a Nicaraguan priest who runs the Nicaraguan Assistance Center in Little Havana.

The Central Americans began arriving from southern Texas by the busload Thursday and Friday following a federal judge’s ruling that the government could not keep them there while their applications for political asylum were being processed.

Since the judge’s decision Monday, some 400 people have come here, bringing the two-month total to about 2,000, most of them Nicaraguans. Officials expect about 100,000 more over the next 18 months.

Pallais said the new group is different from the first wave of Nicaraguans that settled in southern Florida.

Roberto Arguello, head of the Nicaraguan Bankers Association, disagreed, saying the time has come to forget the differences that separate the first group from the second.

″The bottom line is we are all Nicaraguans,″ he said. ″Back in Nicaragua, there was no in-between. Here we just have to forget it. ... The objective is to help all Nicaraguans.″

The latest group is coming to town with no guarantee of food, shelter or social services, and officials are warning there will be very little support once they arrive.

Isidoro Cuevas, the Cuban-born mayor of Sweetwater, a heavily Nicaraguan city in western Dade County, said his city will have trouble absorbing the aliens.

″We’ve been trying to gather clothes and food to pass it on to them,″ he said. ″But there are many dwellings shared by more than one family already. People are sleeping on the front porches, sleeping on the couches.″

In Miami, about 250 immigrants have been staying in a sports stadium, but the Baltimore Orioles baseball team arrives Jan. 25 for spring training, and the immigrants will have to be relocated, most likely to private shelters and churches.

Mayor Xavier Suarez sought an emergency meeting with President Reagan, and other officials urged President-elect George Bush, who is fishing in the Florida Keys this weekend, to come to see the situation for himself.

Bush told reporters he would examine immigration policy when he takes office. He said the newcomers are ″causing an overburdening of facilities like schools and hospitals, and this is a sorry commentary on what’s happening in Central America and Nicaragua.

″The United States has to be generous, but no one community can suffer an overload without some support in some way,″ he said.

A delegation of community leaders visited southern Texas on Friday to warn those awaiting transportation to Miami.

″If people come down there (Miami), they need to know that they’re going to have to fend for themselves,″ Dade County Assistant County Manager Tony Ojeda said in Harlingen, Texas.

He estimated the Miami area has 75,000 to 125,000 Nicaraguans, along with thousands of other recently arrived Central Americans.

More than 30,000 Central Americans passed through south Texas in 1988 seeking political asylum, according to the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.

The best way for Miami to deal with the influx would be to allow more of the immigrants to get work permits, Arguello said.

″With work permits for every Nicaraguan, the private sector can step in and help,″ he said. ″We don’t want to create a welfare society.″

Update hourly