The Mariel Boat Lift was an exodus of Cubans to the United States that began in April and ended on October of 1980. In response to growing economic and political tension in Cuba, dictator Fidel Castro opened the port of Mariel to any citizen that wanted to leave Cuba. The only caveat was that they needed to arrange for their own transportation. Cubans that were unhappy with the dictator migrated in droves to the port. Cubans living in the United States also responded by navigating over 1,700 vessels to Cuba to transport Cubans to the United States.
The sheer volume of political refugees put a strain on the U.S. Coast Guard and the federal government. It was later discovered that Castro had released citizens from jails and mental health facilities and sent them to be shipped to the United States. This created an expensive economic and political problem for President Jimmy Carter. In haste, Carter set up refugee camps in Miami and was forced to begin the process of deportation for hundreds of prisoners.