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Miami, Florida Remarks to Reporters Following a Meeting With Community Leaders.

June 09, 1980

THE PRESIDENT. I appreciate that comment. I've come here as President, representing our Federal Government, to tell the local and State officials and also those who are leaders in Liberty City and throughout this region, professional and business community leaders, that we all must share the responsibility for the guaranteeing of equal justice and equal opportunity, of the repair of damage, of the treatment of people in a fair manner, but that violence creates hatred which hurts us all, and destruction of property and business places doesn't create jobs; it destroys jobs.

We have a representative of the Federal Government here, Frank Jones, who will listen to all the voices that speak for this community that describe what will be done locally and the best way for the Federal programs to be used. He will make a report to me, and within the framework of the law and within the framework of appropriated funds, we will treat Liberty City and this region in a generous but fair fashion.

We have long-term problems here to address. The prime initiative must come from this community. It cannot come from Washington. And the community must realize that violence and dissension and destruction hurts most those who are least able to afford it.

The cooperative attitude that I have experienced this afternoon is very gratifying. There is a deep commitment here to assess the problem and also to solve the problem. And I will meet the proposals on the local basis for jobs, for construction, for loans, and for opportunity more than halfway from the Federal Government level. This will have to be a continuing process; it can't be a transient or a temporary process. And I have very great hopes that this visit has not only resulted in a deeper commitment by us all to make this a better community, but I have no doubt that I will be a better President and the Federal Government will be much more efficient and effective and sensitive in providing services for communities like this in the future because of my visit here. Yes?

Q. Mr. Carter, why did you wait so long to come to Miami?

THE PRESIDENT. It's very important that before I come here we have a chance for the community to express itself. We've had Frank Jones down representing the Federal Government, working for me. And I've had either Gene Eidenberg or Jack Watson here representing me as well. They have been briefing me, and now Mr. Jones is putting together his full report. But I wanted to come before I sign-off on the final report, to get a personal assessment from the mayors involved and from the Governor's staff and others. I think this was a proper time to come.

Q. Mr. President, do you think 4 hours is enough time to assess the situation here?

THE PRESIDENT. No, it's obviously not enough time for me to assess the situation alone, but I have not only Frank Jones, who represents me on a broad scale contacting many agencies, but also we have labor representatives here, those who will be responsible for summer youth jobs, for CETA programs, for the Job Corps. We have education officials here who will be responsible for those programs. HHS that'll be responsible for Head Start. The Small Business Administration people are here in the Miami area, responsible for loans and the rebuilding of this community where it has been destroyed. The transportation representatives will be allocating contracts that will help minority entrepreneurs and others in the construction of a rapid transit system. So, I've got permanent representatives here from many agencies in the Federal Government who are designed to solve the economic problems.

In addition, I have sent the Attorney General down here, and also Drew Days, to make sure that within the system of justice and confining our responsibility to what the Federal Government ought to do, that equality of opportunity in the courts is guaranteed. So, I have many people to speak for me and to listen for me. They make the recommendations, and I'll make the final judgments.

Q. Mr. President, have you as yet decided what action you will take or what you will recommend with regard to the legal status of the Haitians and the Cubans and, also, what kind of funding levels you will recommend, through special legislation or other means, to offset the costs?

THE PRESIDENT. One of those commitments has already been made, and that is to treat exactly the same the Haitians who come here and the Cubans who come here. This has been done for a number of weeks, and it will continue to be done. There will be no discriminatory difference drawn between Haitians and Cubans who've come to our shores. As far as the allocation of funds is concerned, an assessment is now being made through the Immigration and Naturalization Service and through the Office of Management and Budget, working with the local congressional delegation, and that will be made as a recommendation to the appropriate appropriations committees in Washington. But you have to remember that the enormous expense involved in this influx of emigrés from Cuba is not confined to this area. We have a staging area in northern Florida; we have another staging area in Wisconsin, another in Pennsylvania, and another one in Arkansas; and we're trying to place the Cuban Americans and the Haitians around the Nation, not to concentrate them here.

Q. I meant whether you have decided to grant them, or asked that they be granted, refugee status versus applicants for asylum.

THE PRESIDENT. That decision has not been made. The legislation that presently exists does not encompass arrival of emigrés from another country. We have planned our actions, and the law was written with the idea that each person who comes to this country would be screened, either in their country of origin or in a third country, before they arrive on our shores. This has not been the case in this last instance.

I might point out, too, that the reception of the large number of Cuban Americans and the processing of them has been an extraordinary achievement. Many people lose sight of the fact that in the first 2 months of the large influx of Cubans here in 1965, we received a total of 3,000. And during the first 6 weeks of this incident, we were receiving 3,000 per day. It was an unbelievable challenge to many of us in the Federal Government and the local and State governments, and it was handled superbly.

I might say that we are now screening for placement in this Nation about a thousand of the Cuban emigrés per day. So, we are working under very difficult circumstances, without a clear delineation of authority under the law, because the law was not designed for this circumstance. And we are committed to treating the Cubans and the Haitians equally.

Q. What is your response to the Black Caucus' ultimatum to you, saying that if you did not come up with a program for more jobs in 2 weeks—I think they said—that they would not support you politically?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't have any response to that, except we have a large number of job programs already on the books, that are being effectively administered, and additional requests to the Congress, like the youth employment bill and the protection of title VI, the CETA jobs, and others, that will add to job opportunities in the country.

Q. Many people on the streets of Miami have said that they did not want just a Presidential board, that they in fact wanted a specific dollar figure given to them, and that if you left here without giving that that there could be more unrest. Do you leave Miami tonight feeling secure that the black people have been answered?

THE PRESIDENT. It's not possible to give a final answer in a brief visit like this, but we have set into motion a procedure or a mechanism that will let us find the proper sharing of responsibility. The local and the State governments have a major responsibility, and so does the private sector. So do the people who live here who are looking for jobs and who must maintain peace. The Federal Government will more than meet its responsibility. But there has to be a coordinated effort, so that it's not just a transient commitment that will die away after a few weeks. It will be a permanent commitment where jobs and careers are established and where justice is guaranteed and equality of treatment is given to all people, and they believe they'll have it.

So, you can't do this on a 1-day visit. It must be a continuing commitment, and I don't have any doubt that the mayors involved, of Dade County and Miami, the Governor and all his State agencies, the business and professional community, the Chamber of Commerce, the NAACP, and many others are now working jointly toward a common goal, and that is to guarantee the people who have been deprived and who have suffered from discrimination and who have been suffering from economic deprivation will have a better life.

So, we have a common goal, although we look at the same problem from a different perspective. But we are sharing now in a very constructive way, and the answers will not be delayed in forthcoming. They'll be made as quickly as they can possibly be assessed properly. Maybe one more question.

Q. Mr. President, do you believe that what happened here in Miami is an indication of problems that exist all over America?—racism, discrimination, opportunities that are not equal for all.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, obviously there is racism in many places in America, in the minds of many Americans. There is discrimination. There is unemployment. There is dissatisfaction. There's also an inequitable allocation of the system of justice. That's inherent in any country, and I think it's minimal in our Nation compared to almost all other nations on Earth.

There was a remarkable confluence of circumstances here that precipitated this crisis. I don't know the details of the background, but there was a sense of extremely high unemployment, a sense that the black community did not have its adequate share of economic and political opportunity, a sense that there was not a fair treatment under the system of justice. Whether all of those beliefs were accurate I cannot say. But obviously, I think, all have learned that the violence was not constructive and the destruction hurt those least able to afford it, and the best way to resolve either actual or deeply felt beliefs that there is discrimination is to work together toward a common future.

So, I don't condone the violence that occurred here, but I do say that now that it has occurred, whether it had a sound basis or not in fact, we must redress any grievances that exist and have a very highly improved belief among all those who live in this community that the Government and the private sector is committed to a fair and equitable opportunity of life for all those who live here.

Q. Thank you, Mr. President.


Q. Why not meet with Cuban leaders today?

THE PRESIDENT. I met with the Cuban press earlier.

Note: The President spoke at 7: 44 p.m. at the James E. Scott Community Association in Liberty City, a section of Miami.

Following his remarks, the President went to Miami International Airport, where he met with officials of the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, the U.S. Customs Service, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. He then left for Seattle, Wash.

Jimmy Carter, Miami, Florida Remarks to Reporters Following a Meeting With Community Leaders. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/252251

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