In September 1980, Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton exchanged several letters with Christian R. Holmes, director of the Cuban-Haitian Task Force. Governor Clinton was concerned about security at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, following the Carter administration_s decision to consolidate recent immigrants from Cuba
and Haiti at Fort Chaffee. Just one month earlier, in August 1980, a disturbance at Fort Indiantown Gap in Pennsylvania had claimed the life of one of the immigrants. Another disturbance, two weeks later, caused extensive damage to the facility and led to the transfer of eighty four aliens to federal prisons. In his
correspondence with Governor Clinton, Holmes assured him that the _hardcore troublemakers_ would not be transferred to Fort Chaffee. Despite Holmes_s assurances, Clinton wrote that he still wanted Arkansas state officials to conduct their own examination of the security plans for Fort Chaffee.
This correspondence between Holmes and Clinton was necessary because between April and July 1980, about 120,000 Cubans and Haitians arrived in the United States. By the end of October, another 15,000 arrived on U.S. soil. This massive migration in such as short time represented a humanitarian, immigration, and law enforcement problem, and as the correspondence between Clinton and Holmes indicates, the influx was also a domestic political problem. Although the tide of refugees subsided in the fall of 1980, the Reagan administration inherited thousands of Cubans and Haitians still waiting for homes, and resettlement efforts stretched into the summer of 1981. These fraught months are reflected in Immigration during the Carter Administration: Records of the Cuban-Haitian Task Force, microfilmed from the Jimmy Carter Library in Atlanta, Georgia. President Carter_s initial response to the crisis was twofold. First, he attempted to work with Cuban President Fidel Castro to develop a _legal and orderly process_ for accepting Cubans into the United States. He also directed the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Customs Service to seize vessels and fine the operators of vessels who were trying to bring Cubans unlawfully to the United States. At the
same time, President Carter ordered the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to send an emergency response team to Miami, Florida, to begin dealing with the new arrivals. In order to care for the immigrants, FEMA established four processing centers: one in Fort Chaffee, Arkansas; one in Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania; one in Fort McCoy, Wisconsin; and one in Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. For the next two months, FEMA operated the processing centers, and the U.S. military was enlisted to provide security and general support at each facility.