Cuban doctors get a new shot at emigration — if applications were
submitted prior to cutoff
BY NORA GÁMEZ TORRES
Hundreds of Cuban medical professionals waiting in third countries for
permission to emigrate to the United States got a reprieve Thursday with
a new announcement by the Obama administration: paperwork submitted
prior to the official end of the Cuban Medical Professional Parole
program will be processed.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) updated aspects of the new
immigration policy toward Cuba and now says it will process pending
applications to the parole program known by the acronym CMPP — provided
paperwork was submitted before 5 p.m. Jan. 12, the official end to the
"[United States Citizenship and Immigration Services] will not accept
and adjudicate any CMPP cases received at U.S. embassies and consulates
on or after 5:00 p.m. EST on January 12, 2017," a DHS spokesman said in
statement Thursday. "However, cases initiated before that time frame
will continue to be accepted and adjudicated by USCIS to completion."
The clarification comes a week after the Obama administration announced
the elimination of the program, as well as an end to wet foot, dry foot
policy, which gave entry to most Cuban migrants who made it onto U.S. soil.
A DHS spokeswoman told el Nuevo Herald earlier this week that doctors
with pending applications to the CMPP program would be affected by the
change, suggesting that even those with the parole status stamped on
their passports would be treated like any foreigner with a visa, and
therefore subject to being denied U.S. entry.
DHS sent the correction on Thursday.
The CMPP grants parole to Cuban doctors who can prove their nationality
and that they were working as part of a Cuban government mission in a
third country. On Thursday, DHS clarified that doctors with pending
applications have to meet these requirements, too.
The updated criteria came as a relief to hundreds of doctors in third
countries who have been waiting months for a USCIS response to their
"Doctors who take this step are generally illegal in these [third]
countries during the waiting time for a response from USCIS, under
constant danger of deportation to Cuba," a Cuban doctor waiting in
Barbados said in an email. Because they are deemed "deserters" by the
Cuban government, medical professionals returned to the island would
suffer consequences, said the doctor who requested anonymity for fear of
reprisals if deported.
In 2015, the Cuban government invoked the existence of the CMPP to
announce that it would restrict doctors from the freedom to travel. At
the same time, it offered "similar" positions within the Ministry of
Public Health to doctors "tricked to defect by deceiving policies" who
wanted to return to the island.
The export of medical services is one of the most profitable activities
for the Cuban government — valued at $8 billion in 2014. The current
economic crisis in Venezuela and political upheavals in Brazil have
brought that number down in the past two years.
The Cuban doctor in Barbados, who spoke on behalf of several doctors in
the same situation, said that they were not looking for "preferential
treatment" but wanted to avoid being treated as "pariahs" by the Cuban
government, if they return.
The Cuban government welcomed the announcement last week of the end to
the program and issued its own declaration denouncing the CMPP as "part
of the arsenal to deprive the country of doctors, nurses and other
professionals in the field, in a virtual international operation of
brain theft promoted by the U.S. government since 2006."
In his statement on Jan. 12, President Barack Obama said preferential
treatment to Cuban doctors "contradicted" joint U.S. and Cuban efforts
"to combat diseases that endanger the health and lives of our people"
and risked "harming the Cuban people."
The Obama administration praised the work of Cuban doctors who were sent
by their government to fight Ebola in several African countries in 2014.
But, according to various reports, the doctors only received half the
salary paid by the World Health Organization while the Cuban government
took the rest. Similar payment irregularities to Cuban doctors were
reported in Brazil.
Florida Republicans Carlos Curbelo and Marco Rubio expressed their
"hope" that the government of Donald Trump, who takes office Friday,
will resume the parole program for Cuban doctors.
Source: Some Cuban doctors will be allowed to enter the U.S. | Miami