Tag Archives: Cuban Adjustment Act

Sen. Marco Rubio to propose bill to cut aid to Cuban migrants

Sun Sentinel

marcorubio1

On the presidential campaign trail Thursday, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio said he will introduce legislation within days to address unbridled abuses of refugee aid to Cuban migrants.

Rubio joins other influential Cuban Americans in Congress calling for an end to abuses documented in a Sun Sentinel investigation in October that found welfare meant to help Cubans settle in America was instead funding life on the island.

“You now have evidence of people coming to the U.S.,” the Florida Republican told reporters in New Hampshire, and “qualifying for Social Security or other benefits and they’re moving back to Cuba and they’re collecting the checks there.”

“That’s just outrageous,” he said. “Those abuses need to be dealt with.”

At a party earlier at the Bedford, N.H., home of a woman who runs a conservative think tank, Rubio said: “I have a law that we are going to introduce this week that shuts down this issue,” according to NBC News.

Rubio’s staff confirmed to the Sun Sentinel on Thursday that the senator has been working on a bill and will release details next week.

The GOP presidential hopeful also reiterated that the U.S. needs to “re-examine” the Cuban Adjustment Act, which for decades has given Cubans a quick path to legal status and benefits in the U.S., whether they entered the country with or without permission. No other immigrant group has such easy access to the U.S. and its welfare programs.
Continue reading Sen. Marco Rubio to propose bill to cut aid to Cuban migrants

Central American nations reached an agreement to allow several thousand Cuban migrants stranded in Costa Rica to continue their journey towards the United States

Cuban migrants say they prefer to try their luck through Central American than returning to Cuba
Cuban migrants say they prefer to try their luck through Central American than returning to Cuba

BBC News

Central American nations have reached an agreement to allow several thousand Cuban migrants stranded in Costa Rica for over a month to continue their journey towards the United States.

The migrants will be airlifted to El Salvador and put on buses, which will take them to the US.

American legislation gives Cuban migrants preferential treatment.

If they arrive at the US border by land they are allowed to enter the country and apply for residency.

Those who are intercepted at sea are sent back, under the special immigration policy known as “wet foot, dry foot”.

Many Cuban migrants fear that the thaw in relations between Washington and Havana may put an end to the preferential treatment given to them.

“We have agreed to make the first humanitarian transfer in January,” said foreign ministers from the Sica regional group and Mexico.

They met in Guatemala City to try to find a solution to the crisis.

Cuba did not attend the meeting, but said it expected “a quick and adequate solution” from the nations involved.

“I strongly believe that the politicisation of US migration policy toward Cuba must change,” said Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez.

The current crisis began in November when Nicaragua, a close ally of Cuba, denied access to thousands of migrants arriving from Costa Rica. The Cuban government says an estimated 7,000 migrants have been living on the Costa Rican side of the border since 14 November.

Many of the migrants flew from Cuba to Ecuador, which did not require Cubans to have visas. Ecuador has since changed its visa policy for Cubans.

From Ecuador, the Cuban migrants travelled north through Colombia, Panama and Costa Rica until they were stopped by Nicaragua.

The move has caused tension between Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

Costa Rica had called for the creation of a “humanitarian corridor” to allow the migrants to continue their long journey to the US border, about 2,400 km (1,500 miles) away.

On Sunday, Pope Francis urged Central American nations to show generosity in dealing with the crisis.

“I invite the countries of the region to renew with generosity all necessary efforts in order to find a rapid solution to this humanitarian drama,” the Pope told tens of thousands of people at the Vatican’s St Peter’s Square.

The Pope said many of the Cubans passing through Central America were victims of human trafficking.

Visa protest sign of new boldness in Cuba

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BBC News

As Europe’s winter approaches and many hundreds of thousands of immigrants across the continent face an uncertain future, in Havana rare street protests have been held in recent days over a separate, very different kind of immigrant crisis that’s taking place in Latin America.

It is a journey which begins in Cuba, but takes in Ecuador in the Andes and Central American nations such as Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

It involves political allegiances between long-standing allies and new relationships between former Cold War foes.

And, of course, it involves the immigration policies of the migrants’ ultimate destination, the US.

Late on Thursday, Ecuador’s foreign ministry announced that from 1 December Cubans would require a visa to enter the country.

For many Cubans, the news was a blow.

In fact, Ecuador was reimposing a measure it had lifted on its socialist ally in April 2014.

For 18 months, Cubans had enjoyed the freedom to travel to the South American nation without restriction.

Ecuador quickly became a popular destination for Cubans as it presented them with two important opportunities.

First, the rare chance to travel abroad to a comparatively affordable holiday destination – one where they could load up on much-needed goods and electrical items, often with the intention of reselling them on the black market back in Cuba.

Second, for thousands of Cuban immigrants it became the first step on a 5,500 km trip north to the US.

Ecuador’s decision came as around 3,000 Cubans sit stranded in Costa Rica amid a stand-off with Nicaragua.

Costa Rica is urging its Central American neighbours to grant safe passage to the Cubans, to allow a kind of “humanitarian corridor'” so they can reach the US.

But Nicaragua, led by Raul Castro’s old ally, President Daniel Ortega, is refusing to let them in and is taking what appears to be a harder line on Cubans passing through their territory on the route north.

Cuba has said the immigrants can return home but it is clear that they have no intention of abandoning their trip.

Instead, they are left in limbo on Costa Rica’s northern border.

Ecuador announced its plan to require a visa for Cubans following an emergency meeting in El Salvador – seemingly echoing Nicaragua’s tougher stance.

The Ecuadorean Foreign Ministry said they still welcomed Cubans to the country, but were committed to “efforts by the Latin American community to prevent migration without authorisation”.

Meanwhile, those Cubans who had already bought plane tickets for Ecuador were caught by surprise by the news and without visas face losing their flights and their money.

But significantly, their reaction was one not often seen in Cuba.

Anger on the streets

Rather than meekly accept the decision of the authorities, they took to the streets outside the Ecuadorean embassy to demand their visas be issued immediately.

Protests that aren’t government organised are very rare in Cuba and in this instance, police cordoned off several streets around the embassy building.

Ecuadorean diplomats used loudspeakers to address the crowd, who had started to chant for visas, insisting that they would have to apply for them online.

Given how little internet access there is in Cuba, and how difficult and expensive it is for people to get online, that was never going to placate the crowd.

At the same time, there were also queues forming outside the offices of the Copa and Avianca airline companies, as frustrated customers demanded refunds on their tickets.

Some were desperate, having spent up to $800 (£531) on their tickets, a huge sum for most Cubans.

Others were visibly angry – both at the Ecuadorean Government for taking the measure, thereby cutting off one of their few routes out of Cuba, and at the Cuban Government of Raul Castro, at whose behest they believe Quito is acting.

By Saturday, Ecuador’s Foreign Minister, Ricardo Patino, said that those Cubans who had bought tickets before the announcement would be issued visas for travel.

But even that wasn’t enough to send home some in the crowd, who resolutely stayed put until their individual cases were resolved.

US embargo

The US broke off diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1959 after Fidel Castro and his brother Raul led a revolution toppling US-backed President Fulgencio Batista. The Castros established a revolutionary socialist state with close ties to the Soviet Union.

The following year, the US imposed a trade embargo covering nearly all exports to Cuba. This was expanded by President Kennedy into a full economic embargo that included stringent travel restrictions.

The embargo is estimated to have cost the Cuban economy more than $1.1tn and the US economy $1.2bn a year.

In September, the US announced eased restrictions on business and travel with Cuba, the latest move by President Barack Obama to improve relations with the country.

US businesses will now be allowed to open up locations in Cuba.

For its part, the Cuban government has consistently blamed the situation on the US and its immigration policies that favour Cubans.

Specifically the Cuban Adjustment Act and the famed “wet foot, dry foot” policy, which give Cubans who reach US soil automatic legal residency and the right to apply for citizenship.

This, the Castro Government says, is the carrot in Washington’s policy towards Cuba (the trade embargo on the island being the stick).

In fact, the number of Cubans making the vast trip from the Andes up to the US-Mexico border has risen significantly since the detente between the US and Cuba was announced on 17 December last year.

Many Cubans fear the days of their special privileges in the US are numbered and those who want to get to the US to claim residency now see it as a race against time.

With Ecuador closing one loophole and Nicaragua posting troops to its border with Costa Rica in the continuing impasse over the stranded immigrants, it certainly seems that Cuba’s allies intend to make that journey even harder.

Thousands of Cubans remain stuck on the Costa Rican side of the border with Nicaragua after Managua refused at a regional summit on Tuesday to open its doors to a wave of migrants heading for the United States.

cubanoscostarica

Reuters

Fearing the recent rapprochement between Havana and Washington could end preferential U.S. policies for Cuban migrants, thousands of people from the Communist-ruled island have been crossing into South America and traveling through Central America hoping to reach U.S. soil.

More than 3,000 Cubans have been stopped for days at the Costa Rican border after the Nicaraguan government shut its borders, denying them passage north through the country. At least 150 Cubans are arriving every day, exacerbating the problem.

During a regional summit in El Salvador, which included representatives from the governments of Cuba, Colombia, Ecuador and Mexico, Nicaragua rejected Costa Rica’s suggestion of creating a “humanitarian corridor” for the migrants to pass through and said its border would remain closed.

“Nicaragua demands that the government of Costa Rica … remove all migrants from our border areas,” said Nicaraguan first lady and government spokeswoman Rosario Murillo.

Led by former Marxist guerrilla Daniel Ortega, Nicaragua is a close ally of Cuba, and his administration has complained that by issuing the Cubans with transit visas, Costa Rica has violated its national sovereignty.

Costa Rican Foreign Minister Manuel Gonzalez told reporters he thought Nicaragua had blocked a reasonable policy suggestion for resolving the crisis.

“It’s unacceptable to kid around with people’s suffering,” he said.

Since U.S.-Cuban ties began to thaw in December, the number of Cubans heading through Central America has climbed.

According to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol data published by the Pew Research Center, 27,296 Cubans entered the United States in the first nine months of the 2015 fiscal year, up 78 percent from 2014.

Under arrangements stemming from the Cold War era, Cuban migrants receive special treatment on reaching the United States. The “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy allows Cubans who set foot on U.S. soil to stay, while those captured at sea are sent back.

End the fraud in Cuban immigration

Cuban migrants are seen on a raft before being rescued by members of Mexico's Navy (SEMAR) in Progreso, in the state of Yucatan

Sun Sentinel Editorial

Providing a free ride on welfare is not why our country opened its borders to Cuban immigrants.
You can understand why, during the height of the Cold War, America granted special privileges to Cuban refugees who risked their lives to flee the Communist dictatorship of Fidel Castro.
But five decades later, the dynamics have changed. And given what we now know about some of those leaving Cuba, so should the laws be changed that give Cuban immigrants special status, including immediate access to welfare.
In truth, the growing number of Cubans arriving today has little to do with political persecution and everything to do with our nation’s better economy, better jobs and, as we learn today from a Sun Sentinel investigation, better government handouts.
For not only are Cubans given easy access to legal residency and citizenship, they’re also immediately eligible for welfare benefits unavailable to most other legal immigrants for at least five years.
Our reporting shows an alarming number of Cuban immigrants are using their American welfare checks to return to the island for a better lifestyle or regular family vacations, giving lie to any fear of persecution.
By many accounts, this revolving-door fraud is widely known, yet largely overlooked. On the streets of Miami, Hialeah and elsewhere in South Florida, people disgusted by the abuse have called their congressmen, state officials and anyone who will listen. “Stop the fraud please!” one person cried to the state.
By our accounts, taxpayers spend more than $680 million per year on welfare to Cuban immigrants, not counting the cost of Medicaid health care benefits, a number that couldn’t be discerned. For until now, no one has tallied the costs, let alone the abuses.
“They’re taking benefits from the American taxpayer to subsidize their life in another country,” Javier Carreoso, aide to former Miami Rep. David Rivera, told our reporters.
When welfare beneficiaries leave the country for more than 30 days, their benefits are supposed to be suspended, but remarkably, our government relies on people to self-report. Now consider that in Cuba, people learn to skirt the rules to survive a government that says it will take care of you, but doesn’t. So without proper oversight here, expecting Cuban immigrants to self-report is folly.
Along with welfare fraud, the preferential laws for Cubans also have given rise to another perfectly legal, yet unintended, consequence. That is, aging Cubans are coming to Florida not to flee oppression, but to live near their children in an easier retirement.
“It wasn’t that bad in Cuba,” said Jose Angel Rodriguez, 81, who now gets food stamps, Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income payments at his daughter’s home in Miami. “But here, I’m better.”
“This is the greatest country in the world,” said Juan Fleites, 62, who visits Cuba every two to three months on money saved from his American welfare checks.
A free ride is not why our country opened its borders to Cuban immigrants. Today’s abuses demand redress.
So let our eyes be opened. Let our members of Congress be put on notice. And let our presidential candidates be informed that on the issue of immigration, changes also are needed in the laws that give preferential status to Cubans.
For starters, let’s match the travel records of people who go to Cuba against those receiving welfare benefits. For 12 years, government auditors have urged Social Security and the Department of Homeland Security to share such data. And 12 years later, it still hasn’t happened. Get it done.
Second, let’s put some real muscle into pursuing fraud complaints. It doesn’t matter if the fraud is only a few thousand dollars and costs more to prosecute. A message must be sent.
And third, let’s change the laws, starting with the welfare law that tempts Cubans to come for a quick and steady handout. Then let’s address the sacred cow — the wet-foot/dry-foot law that largely lets Cubans stay if they make it to our shores on the assumption they are fleeing persecution.
For let’s not kid ourselves. The big driver behind this year’s uptick in Cuban arrivals is not the fear of persecution back home, but the fear that detente will close the door to a better life in America.
Will our leaders demonstrate political backbone, especially in an election season?
For the Obama Administration, it’s all about expanding ties and making friends, and a lot of Cubans would be upset if our country did away with the generous benefits given their families, friends and countrymen. Because Florida is a swing state in presidential politics, taking a stand would be risky, even though a lot of Cuban-Americans are disgusted by the fraud, too.
For people like U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the Miami Republican generally given deference on Cuba matters, the focus is always on human rights and punishing the Castro government. To address the fraud that flows between Miami and Havana would undermine the narrative she seeks to highlight. And facing a newly drawn political district this year, she notes that it’s the hard-liners who win elections.
But for taxpayers footing the bill and witnessing the abuses, enough is enough. So today we join that person who cried: “Stop the fraud please!”
Cubans facing persecution because of their race, religion or political opinion deserve the same safe harbor America affords other persecuted people, no more, no less. Same goes for those who seek to emigrate for economic or family reasons.
But the laws that give Cubans preference on immigration and welfare benefits are Cold War relics whose time have come and gone.
With members of South Florida’s congressional delegation standing strong against normalizing relations with Cuba, we urge them to similarly stand strong in safeguarding the public purse.
End the fraud in Cuban immigration. Now.

Calls to end so-called ‘wet-foot-dry-foot’ policy grow as ties between U.S., Cuba improve

Cuban rafters trying to leave the Hell that Castro has created for them

Calls are growing for the Obama administration to end the decades-long practice of allowing Cubans who make it onto U.S. soil to stay here.

The practice, which stems from the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act and is informally known as the “wet-foot-dry-foot” policy, allows Cubans who make it to the United States to remain her legally.
They can obtain permanent U.S. residency after a year and a day.
The policy has been controversial for a long time, drawing criticism from some who view it as preferential treatment. Haitian-American groups, for instance, often contrast how much harder it is for their compatriots to get legal residency in the United States.
Now that Cuba and the United States are re-establishing diplomatic relations and recently announced that embassies would be reopened in Havana and Washington, D.C., before the end of July, many argue that it’s time to repeal the Cuban Adjustment Act.
“The politics of the issue have evolved,” Marc R. Rosenblum, deputy director of the U.S. immigration policy program at the Migration Policy Institute, told Fox News Latino.
There also have been published reports about how some Cubans obtain refugee status – presumably because they fear persecution in their native homeland – yet regularly travel between the U.S. and the communist nation after obtaining legal residency here.
“People see certain Cubans abuse the Cuban Adjustment Act, and travel back and forth, taking advantage of that privileged status.”
The Obama administration, mindful of the emotionally-charged debate around the special program – Cuban exiles have pushed hard to keep it in place – quickly noted after announcing the push to normalize relations that the wet-foot-dry-foot policy would remain in place.
Remberto Perez, vice president of the Cuban American National Foundation, one of the nation’s most influential Cuban exile lobbying groups, says the re-establishment of diplomatic relations has not meant an end to the human rights abuses that have driven many to flee to the United States.
“It’s still a brutal dictatorship, and if people are risking their lives to escape the regime, we should give them asylum,” Perez, a New Jersey businessman, told FNL. “Cuba is just giving lip service and window-dressing. Cuba cannot be compared with Haiti. Cuba is a police state.”
Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a Miami Republican and the son of Cuban exiles, has drafted legislation that seeks to modify the Cuban Adjustment Act.
Among other things, his measure requires people who want to stay in the United States via the Cuban Adjustment Act to prove they face political persecution.
It would also rescind the residency of refugees who return to Cuba before they complete the process of becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen.

Continue reading Calls to end so-called ‘wet-foot-dry-foot’ policy grow as ties between U.S., Cuba improve