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Miami faith communities help new exiled, migrants

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Posted at 5:51 PM, Mar 05, 2023

FL. — A few days after selling everything and fleeing Cuba a mother and her three children hoped on a crowded boat and showed up at a church in the Miami Suburb.

Daneilis Tamayo and her children, ages 16, 8, and 3, have been sleeping in the church’s improvised shelter.

In the past 18 months, an estimated 250,000 migrants and asylum-seekers have arrived in the Miami area after being granted only precarious legal status.

It often doesn’t include permission to work, which is essential to building new lives in the U.S.

Cubans were the first to arrive during the island’s communist revolution 60 years ago, and they’re still fleeing here alongside Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans.

Miami’s faith leaders remain steadfast in their mission to help settle new migrants. But they’re sounding the alarm that the need is growing unmanageable – and could get worse without federal reforms providing permanent legal status and work permits.

The number of arrivals, by sea directly to Florida and from those heading here from the US-Mexico border, increased earlier this winter.

For most newcomers, the best hope to settle in the U.S. is to win asylum, but some say the immigration courts are backlogged causing migrants to be in limbo for years, and ineligible to get a job legally.

Many migrants are homeless due to soaring rent and motel rates. Faith leaders say some are paying up to $800 a month for an inflatable mattress in a living room or staying in a single-family home with more than a dozen relatives.

In addition to providing food, clothes, and some housing relief, churches are helping educate migrants about their legal options.

St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church, put together a migration forum with Catholic Legal Services in mid-February.

Three dozen people listened intently as attorneys explained the new humanitarian parole program that allows 30,000 Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans into the U.S. each month if they have a sponsor who assumes financial responsibility for them for two years.

With these efforts, Miami has established diaspora communities that know all too well the hardships that migrating entails, and that motivates many to help.