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Nicaraguan Refugees Moved Into Stadium After Shelter Is Shut Down

December 16, 1988

MIAMI (AP) _ More than 150 Nicaraguan refugees are living in the locker rooms of a Miami stadium after their three-room shelter was closed by the city because it was overcrowded.

″I saw three, four people sleeping on top of each other″ at the House of Love and Hope, said Miami City Manager Cesar Odio after a Tuesday night inspection. ″I was horrified.″

The privately run shelter was shut down Wednesday for alleged unsanitary conditions and violations of Miami zoning laws. Vans and buses moved the 157 refugees to the Bobby Maduro Miami stadium. There was no word on how long the refugees would be allowed to stay at the stadium.

The action was the first time Miami officials have stepped in to handle the growing influx of Nicaraguan refugees, who have been moving to the city since the Sandinista revolution in 1979.

The exodus has picked up speed in the past few months with thousands of Nicaraguans pouring across the border, many from Mexico, and finding their way to Miami.

Some resented the move to the stadium. ″They’re moving us like animals,″ said Magda Pavon, who has been in Miami two months.

Others were pleased with the space and bath facilities at their new quarters. ″I feel they’re helping us,″ said Julia Armas.

The shelter had been cited for code violations several times since it opened in August, but officials had given shelter founder Cristobal Mendoza extensions to search for better quarters.

U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service officials estimate 300 Nicaraguans a week have been settling in Dade County since the summer.

The city manager told Nicaraguans that their problem was similar to the problem facing Mariel refugees eight years ago.

When 125,000 Mariel refugees arrived in Florida in 1980, they were processed in the Orange Bowl and a tent city was erected to house them under an Interstate 95.

″We need to work with you in the same way,″ said Odio, who helped direct the Mariel relief effort.

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