When Washington put an end to a preferential immigration policy for Cuban migrants nearly two weeks ago, the official reasoning behind the move was to stem the flow of an increasing exodus and prompt democratic changes on the island.
Many in the exile community considered the new measure a “gift” for the Cuban government.
But looming questions remain: Will Cubans stay in their homeland or continue to flee? And is the Cuban government the real winner with this agreement?
Part of the debate was generated by the way the policy shift came about — announced through a joint statement from both governments and without warning to avoid a migratory crisis, according to Ben Rhodes, Obama’s adviser on Cuba.
Antonio Rodiles, a Cuban government opponent and one of the coordinators of the Forum for Rights and Freedoms, told el Nuevo Herald that the policy revision was “necessary” but criticized the “abrupt” way in which it was carried out. He also took issue with the fact that the announcement was made jointly with the Cuban government, with the release of a “shameful” document in which “the Cuban regime spoke of the defense of human rights and other issues in which it has been the principal violator.”
Rodiles said that the policy “had been distorted” by the Raúl Castro government itself, which constructed a narrative in which the emigres “fled for economic and not political reasons.” Many repeated that statement upon arrival in the United States to avoid conflicts with the government and to be able to return to the island, where many left behind their closest relatives.
These kinds of public declarations, along with high-profile crimes committed by some newly arrived immigrants, elicited negative opinions among the public, including Cuban exiles who arrived in earlier migration waves. Two Cuban American congressmen, Carlos Curbelo and Marco Rubio, even filed a bill to restrict Cuban immigrants’ access to federal benefits and grant them only to those who had left the island for political reasons.