"I hope they don't come to plains"
Stephens, Alexander Maxwell
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In 1980, roughly 125,000 Cubans sailed to the United States in a mass migration that became known as the Mariel boatlift. Labeled "scum" by Fidel Castro, many of the Cubans who crossed the Straits of Florida found themselves stigmatized again in the United States, as rumors spread that their government used the boatlift to empty its prisons and mental institutions. Criminalized and caught in the middle of a changing U.S. refugee policy, tens of thousands of Mariel migrants were sent to makeshift detention centers on military bases. Black and mulato Cubans made up a disproportionate number of the people confined to these carceral spaces. Although scholars have been critical of the stigmatization and detention of people from Mariel, few have explored fully the ways that race shaped this process. This thesis analyzes the various forms of power that contributed to the racialized consequences of the boatlift.