The Cuban Adjustment Act is not the Problem / Miriam Celaya
Posted on January 27, 2016
Miriam Celaya, Cubanet, Havana, 22 January 2016 – The imminent arrival
in the US of thousands of Cubans stranded in Costa Rica has, once again,
unleashed the debate whether the Cuban Adjustment Act its right or not,
its original foundations, and opinions on whether Cubans who are exiting
today should be considered political immigrants and, because of it,
deserve to benefit from that law.
The subject stimulates strong feelings, as is always the case among
Cubans, clouding objectivity and making it difficult to demarcate
between legal matters, political interests, personal resentments and the
purely human issue, which is ultimately what motivates all exodus,
beyond particular circumstances marked by politics and economics.
Positions are usually polarized, unqualified and exclusive: they either
favor the infinite arrival of Cubans to the US – particularly to Miami,
the offshore capital of "all Cubans" – and the 'irreversibility' of the
Cuban Adjustment Act, as a sort of divine right inherent to those born
within the Cuban Archipelago's 110,000 square kilometers, or they
advocate the repeal of the law and limiting or cutting off aid to all
those who arrive.
And, since anything goes when it's time to taking advantage of the
situation, the new migration crisis has also been seized by some
Cuban-American politicians to stoke the embers against the move towards
the warming of diplomatic relations with the Cuban government initiated
by the White House, creating uncertainty about the possible
disappearance of the Cuban Adjustment Act, and with it, the privileges
Cuban immigrants to the US have enjoyed.
Unfortunately, this approach overlaps the real cause of the growing
exodus out of Cuba: asphyxia, decay, and condemnation to eternal poverty
under an obsolete and failed sociopolitical system thrust on them almost
60 years ago. With or without the Cuban Adjustment Act, Cubans will
continue to emigrate, either to the US or to any other destination,
which is evident in the existence of communities of Cuban emigrants in
countries where there are no Adjustment Act Laws from which they might
Ergo, the controversial Law – which, by the way, the Cuban authorities
did not even mention during the honeymoon days with the Soviet Union –
is an undeniable part of the problem, but not the most important one, so
that its repeal will not constitute the solution to the unstoppable flow
of people from Cuba.
In fact, we can categorically state that if the legislation should
disappear, Cubans will not give up on their desire to enter US
territory, and, once in the US, they would survive in illegality, just
as millions of "undocumented" Latin-American immigrants have done.
Haven't we been trained for decades here in Cuba, where everything good
seems to be prohibited, to survive in illegality in a thousand different
The "legitimate" children of the Cuban Adjustment Act
It is difficult to objectively review a legal tool that has protected so
many fellow Cubans. But when we talk about the Cuban Adjustment Act
itself, we inevitably recall the causes and circumstances that gave rise
Enacted in 1966, the Act gave legal status to a large number of Cubans
who had been forced to flee Cuba, many of whom had been affected by
revolutionary laws or had serious accusations hanging over them, either
for real or alleged collaboration with Batista or other crimes
considered 'against' the triumphant Castro revolution.
We must recall that, back then, the firing squad was still the usual
sentence applied to "traitors" by the guerrilla gang that took power in
1959. Punishable categories could equally include being members or
supporters of the former dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, and being
participants in the revolutionary struggle that opposed Fidel Castro's
turn to communism, some of whom returned to armed struggle as a form of
rebellion and were defeated.
Cuban exiles of the '60s were mainly families of the upper and middle
classes of the bourgeoisie who had been economically affected by
nationalizations and other "revolutionary" measures, and whose interests
were incompatible with the political line taken by the Cuban government.
And it must be noted that when they left Cuba they were stripped of all
their rights by the Cuban revolutionary laws. From a legal point of
view, returning to Cuba was not an option for them. Thus, the Cuban
Adjustment Act was created to resolve the legal limbo in which these
early Cubans were living, when, seven years into the Castro regime, all
indications were that their return to Cuba would be more protracted than
The rest of the story is well known. A law arising for the benefit of
Cuban political exiles in the heat of the Cold War evolved into a
standard when it extended to every Cuban who sets foot in the US, even
though most of them arriving today do not consider themselves as
politically persecuted by the Castro dictatorship.
"I'm going there to do my own thing"
None of the phases of the long Communist experiment in Cuba have been
without migration. With its peaks and valleys, the outflow was an
important sign of the history of the Cuban nation in the last 57 years
under the same government and the same political system.
Current circumstances, however, are not the same as those that existed
as the backdrop of the migration of the 1960's, the spectacular Rafter
Crisis of 1994 or the colossal Mariel Boatlift of 1980, when the abuse
of repudiation rallies, humiliation, and beatings promoted by the
government, organized by the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) and the mass
organizations are etched forever in the memories of both those who left
and those who stayed.
Cubans who fled in the early years of the Revolution suffered a complete
break with what was their way of life in Cuba and were stripped of
property and rights as nationals. They endured the condemnation of those
who are exiled without the possibility of returning to their homeland
for decades, by which time many of them or their family members who
stayed behind had died, without even being able to say goodbye. They
were the direct victims of the political system that some of them had
even helped bring to power. What is clear is that in the last four or
five years the reality has changed, and so has the perception that the
current emigrés have about their own situation.
Cubans who emigrate today not only define themselves mainly as having
economic motives, but under Cuba's migration reform of 2013 they
preserve both the rights to their property and the right to enter and
leave Cuba within 24 months, plus at least the minimum rights that are
enshrined in the Cuban Constitution.
A great part of them have declared that their intention to emigrate was
so they could improve their material living conditions and help their
family in Cuba – that is precisely the same aspirations of millions of
Latin-Americans – and they even repeat that everlasting, all-knowing
phrase, so often heard around here: "I don't care about politics, I'm
going there to do my own thing."
And, indeed, once they have obtained their legal residence (the famous
"green card"), they begin to travel to Cuba before the expiration of the
two-year grace period granted to them by the Cuban government to
preserve their rights as natives of the dilapidated island hacienda.
"Fears" of reprisals from the Castro regime that they were experiencing
when applying under the Cuban Adjustment Act abruptly and magically
disappear, once they qualify.
This is a triple benefit: for Cuban emigrants because they get favored
twice, with the Cuban Adjustment Act and with Raul's immigration reform,
and for the Cuban government, because migration has become one of the
few sources guaranteeing steady net income and constant foreign currency
After that, privileges to fast legal access to work, a Social Security
number, food stamps and other benefits received because of their alleged
condition as "persecuted," in reality becomes a kind of legal scam of
the public treasury to which taxpayers contribute, especially Americans
who have nothing to do with the Cuban drama. This is the essential
argument used by those who believe that the time has come to – at least
– review the Adjustment Act and modify it so that it can accommodate
only those who can reasonably be regarded as "political refugees."
But the biggest trap of the Adjustment Act does not lie exactly in
tending to reinforce the intangible (and false) Cuban exceptionalism, or
in its current ambiguity or discretion that some future modification
might grant it, but – just like happens with the embargo – its real
inconvenience resides in making a foreign law responsible for the
solution of problems that are clearly national in their nature.
Once again, the quest for solutions to the eternal Cuban crisis is
placed on the shoulders of legislators and other foreign politicians, a
reality that is indicative of the pernicious infancy of a country whose
children are incapable of seeing themselves as protagonists of their own
destinies and thus, with a change in the rules of the game in their own
country, opt to escape the miserable Castro paternalism in order to
benefit from the generous kindness of US paternalism. Cubans, let's stop
going around in circles; the problem is not the Adjustment Act or the
clique of politicians here, there, or yonder, but in ourselves. It's
Source: The Cuban Adjustment Act is not the Problem / Miriam Celaya |
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