Is Cuban Adjustment Act needed today?
By Sun Sentinel Editorial Board
Time to treat Cubans like every other group of immigrants.
As relations between the United States and Cuba start to thaw, one thing
has become very clear:
The Cuban Adjustment Act, as originally adopted in 1966 and virtually
untouched since then, has outlived its usefulness and need.
The world was a different place when this law was adopted to give legal
standing to Cuban exiles who fled Fidel Castro. It allows Cubans to
become legal residents of the U.S. only a year after touching foot here,
a privilege given no other immigrant group.
It's also a privilege that has been ripe for abuse, as revealed in Sun
Sentinel investigative stories by reporters Sally Kestin, Megan O'Matz
and John Maines.
Our reporters have documented an enormous amount of crime being
committed by Cuban immigrants who come here not to flee persecution, but
to steal from retailers, insurance companies, banks, credit card
companies and Medicare. They then flee back to Cuba, where they can
avoid justice because of our lack of diplomatic relations.
More recently, we've discovered that people who have never set foot in
Cuba, but claim a parent of Cuban descent, can immigrate here.
Ideally, the veteran and influential heavy hitters of Florida's
congressional delegation — like Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, or
Sen. Marco Rubio — would take the lead on initiating changes in the
Cuban Adjustment Act. They are, after all, the go-to voices when
Congress discusses Cuba. But Ros-Lehtinen and Rubio have yet to show
leadership on a law they know is hard to defend.
Instead, it has fallen to the newest member of the delegation, freshman
Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Miami, to draft legislation that would change the
Cuban Adjustment Act.
Curbelo, a Miami native and son of Cuban exiles, deserves praise for
trying to do something about the documented abuses. He is proposing
legislation — still being written — that would prevent new arrivals from
freely traveling back to Cuba until they become U.S. citizens. Most
importantly, his proposal would require Cubans seeking entry under the
Cuban Adjustment Act to attest they are political refugees.
That's the good news.
The bad news is Curbelo's proposal is similar to one introduced in 2011
by then-Rep David Rivera, also a Miami Republican. The proposal, with
Ros-Lehtinen listed as a co-sponsor, would have rescinded the legal
residency of any Cuban who returned to the island before becoming a U.S.
That bill died in committee. Curbelo is hoping his bill has a different
"When you do talk to other members of Congress about the abuses of the
Cuban Adjustment Act," Curbelo's chief of staff, Roy Schultheis, told
the Sun Sentinel, "everyone accepts that they exist."
"We all know that money (stolen in the Untied States) goes back to Cuba
and enriches the Castro regime," he added. "That's not what we want to
Again, Curbelo deserves credit for trying to address the problem. But
his bill would be hard to enforce. And there would be difficulties in
investigating whether a Cuban was really fleeing the country because of
The time is right for someone in our delegation to step up and talk
about eliminating the Cuban Adjustment Act altogether. It is time to
think about treating Cuban immigrants the way we do immigrants from
other nations. Haitians, in particular, face many of the same problems
as Cubans and have a much more difficult task gaining legal status here.
In today's world, many Cubans are fleeing the country's horrid economic
conditions and hoping for greater opportunity here. That is the hope of
immigrants from around the world who want to come to America.
"We are looking to tighten (the Cuban Adjustment Act) to assure that
only those facing oppression in Cuba can take advantage," Curbelo said
in a statement provided by his office.
A good thought. A better one is to stop considering piecemeal changes to
the Cuban Adjustment Act, and decide if it's needed at all.
Fairness should be the goal of immigration. Eliminating the Cuban
Adjustment Act would be a good start.
Source: Is Cuban Adjustment Act needed today? - Sun Sentinel -