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INS told state may need help

Gov. Lawton Chiles said he doesn't want to cry wolf because of a sharp increase in Cuban immigration, but he told federal officials Thursday they should get ready to help financially. Chiles and the Florida congressional delegation met with officials from the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and other agencies to find ways to free $35-million in federal funds as people continue to arrive from the island.

The governor told INS officials the influx is having major impact on state social services and that the state's budget woes make it difficult to keep up. "We're not trying to cry wolf. It may get more desperate than it is now," Chiles said. "Everybody is just kind of standing back and waiting for something to happen."

Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., said the meeting's intent was to prod federal bureaucrats into making some decisions.

Debbie Kilmer, director of Chiles' Washington office, said the only way Florida can obtain federal funds is for President Bush to declare an emergency or for the U.S. attorney general to do so if there were more than 1,000 applicants for asylum in a single quarter.

Chiles hasn't sought emergency declarations. He said the state will keep gathering information to convince the federal government of the problem's scope.