January 28, 1982

During the past few years, the once tranquil area of south Florida has become a landing area for hundreds of thousands of refugees and the Nation's major terminal for the smuggling of illegal drugs into the United States.

Many of those who fled to our land came out of desperation -- a desperation inflicted upon them by a dictator who tolerates no freedoms nor allows human rights. The overwhelming majority of these refugees are freedom-loving, peaceful people. Most have resettled in new homes and in new communities in order to build a better life for themselves and for their families. In the years to come they will take their place alongside the millions of others who came before them in making ours a greater land. Unfortunately, a very small percentage pursued a life of crime and violence that victimized their neighbors in their homeland and even today continue this intolerable behavior in south Florida. Combined with the related criminal activities of drug trafficking, the nearly 2 million people of south Florida are unfairly burdened financially in addition to being denied their constitutional right to live in peace without fear and intimidation.

Massive immigration, rampant crime, and epidemic drug smuggling have created a serious problem. Therefore, it is my belief that the Federal Government has a special responsibility to fill in temporarily and do what it can to reduce and, hopefully, eliminate these problems.

The effort to ameliorate this problem will require the full cooperation and support of many Federal departments and agencies. To coordinate this effort, I am today announcing the establishment of a special task force, headed by Vice President George Bush, to analyze the problems and determine what steps we must take during the period of aggravated crime incidence. This task force will be similar to the one we established for the city of Atlanta. During the period of maximum need, it will coordinate the efforts of the Federal Government and make recommendations and decisions regarding our course of action.

Secretaries Haig, Weinberger, Regan, Lewis, Attorney General Smith, and Presidential Counsellor Edwin Meese will serve as members of the task force. A working group will be headed by Adm. Daniel Murphy, the Vice President's Chief of Staff, and personal representatives of these principals.

The current situation in south Florida is unique. With hundreds and hundreds of miles of coastline, and as the southernmost point of our country located in the Caribbean, it has experienced difficulties that no other community could ever anticipate.

The work of the task force begins today. We seek to assist the people of this region in their efforts to achieve an early restoration of their community and their lives to the normalcy they deserve.