The U.S. Needs To End Cuba's Immigration Blank Check
GUEST POST WRITTEN BY
G. Isabelle Abad
Ms. Abad is a Dominican-American writer, entrepreneur and
contracts/business initiatives specialist in financial services.
Amidst the bustling controversy surrounding President Barack Obama's
recent visit to Cuba, and the international pressures for the United
States to end the embargo against Cuba, many are still unaware of a
separate policy intrinsically tied to the embargo that encourages Cuban
migration: The Cuban Adjustment Act (CAA). The CAA is a federal law
enacted in 1966 by the United States Congress, which allows Cuban
nationals an extraordinarily generous immigration process to enter the
If a Cuban's foot touches American soil, he/she is legally granted
entrance into the United States. In addition to entrance, Cubans
immediately qualify for various forms of government aid such as food
stamps and welfare. Since asylum is not required, Cubans may obtain
American residency after one year, even if they plan to eventually
return to Cuba.
No other nationality in the world is extended this privilege. Since its
enactment, this Cold War era policy has encouraged Cubans to embark on
dangerous land or sea migrations to the United States, imposed a cost to
American taxpayers, and caused irreparable damage to the Cuban economy.
This disastrous and outdated policy must be amended.
Enticing Cuban migrants
In the 1990s, due largely in part to the dissolution of the Soviet
Union, Cuba faced an economic crisis called the Special Period. By 1994,
the U.S. Coast Guard had intercepted approximately 37,000 Cubans at sea.
The rise in migration pressured the Clinton Administration to impose a
new provision to the CAA called the Wet Feet, Dry Feet Policy, which no
longer allowed Cubans found at sea to enter the United States. Since
then, if these migrants are found at sea they are returned to Cuba.
The CAA continues to entice Cubans to migrate to the United States, many
of whom have resources that could be invested into the Cuban economy.
Organized sea or land migration from Cuba to Texas or Florida can cost
upwards of $10,000, in a country where the average monthly salary
is approximately $30. Human traffickers reportedly charge Cuban migrants
up to $15,000 for a land migration from Ecuador. Cuba not only loses
these migrant's potential economic or human capital investments but also
loses the resources spent providing free healthcare and education to
Many Cuban migrants are often healthier and better educated than many
Americans. After migrants arrive in the United States, they often
compete with Americans for jobs while adding costs to the American
economy through government-funded aid.
Leaving for better economic opportunities
Yes, Cuba like every country, has economic and political issues to
address or resolve. Initially there were exiles who left Cuba out of
fear for their lives. However, today, most if not all Cuban migrants
leave for better economic opportunity, not to escape political persecution.
The CAA has left Cuba cornered with an embargo, facing a frail,
over-plucked population where many, especially the affluent, leave. Luis
Rondon Paz, a Cuban national who writes for the Havana Times, expressed
his despair as a child, watching people around him leave Cuba one by
one. "All of my primary school friends [left] the country in an
avalanche… [and then] two of my sisters," he said.
On March 18, 2016, 18 of 27 Cuban migrants were rescued after being lost
at sea for 22 days; the other 9 had died. Coast Guard Petty Officer,
Mark Barney, explained the traumatic condition of the survivors, saying
"They could barely walk off the vessel itself… They were weak and they
These dangerous migrations have also promoted the popular misconception
that circumstances must be particularly atrocious for Cubans to risk
their lives. But according to the Migration Policy Institute since the
1960s, despite these special privileges, Cubans only make up 2.8% of all
U.S. immigrants. Referring to Cuban migrants as "refugees" from an
unlivable country is not only humiliating to Cubans but a fallacy. Sure,
like most of the developing world, opportunities in Cuba are not as
plentiful or glamorous as for Americans. But Cubans do not die of
hunger; they receive subsidized food from the government; virtually no
one is homeless; most do not pay any rent; and healthcare services and
education are free.
An immigration privilege like no other
There are far worse qualities of life in most developing countries.
Especially those with dangerous and oppressive governments whom we do
not extend this immigration privilege to, let alone impose an embargo
It is fair to assume that most people in this world, living only 90
miles away from the American coast, with the incentives provided to
Cubans, would also risk an 18-hour sea migration to enter the world
economic super power.
In fact, many citizens of countries like Angola, Haiti, Spain and
Kazakhstan, are known to move to Cuba (some to study medicine since it
is free to study) long enough to obtain residency. They then "flee" to
the United States as refugees since, under American law, it is not
necessary for a Cuban refugee to be born in Cuba.
A surge in migration
Since the Cuban Thaw, there has been a surge in Cuban migration from the
anticipation that the CAA will be revoked. Moreover, recently, the CAA
has caused a disaster at the Costa Rican border where an estimated 8,000
Cubans were turned away by the Nicaraguan government. Cubans were flying
into Ecuador to migrate by land to the Mexican-American border. At the
border of Nicaragua, Cuban migrants were halted and turned away. Many
migrants refused to be turned away, which led to the use of tear gas and
water canons by the Nicaraguan military.
After months in Costa Rica, several Central American countries reached
agreements to fly some Cuban migrants to Mexico where they are currently
finishing their land migration. Other Cuban migrants have reportedly
turned to human traffickers to finish the journey.
Independent land migration for Cubans is particularly dangerous because
Cubans are commonly targeted to be robbed and/or killed by non-Cuban
criminals who then enter the United States using their identity.
Ecuador has now revoked its open visa policy for Cubans who wish to
visit Ecuador for tourism. Now, almost no country in the world will
allow a Cuban in without an expensive and complicated visa process
because, due to the CAA, travel officials assume a Cuban's ultimate goal
is to reach the United States.
Last week, the migration crisis intensified in Panama. After Costa Rican
Foreign Minister Manuel Gonzalez announced Costa Rica had shut its
borders to Cuban Migrants, thousands have been stranded in Panama. On
Friday, approximately 1,000 Cubans violently stormed through the Costa
Rican border in desperation. Hundreds of Cubans in Panama have begun in
a hunger strike. Today, several Cubans continue arriving into Panama
each day only to face an impasse.
Why do so many Cubans go back to their country?
It is important to note if things were truly and especially dire in
Cuba, then why do many Cubans return to live in Cuba? Even Marco Rubio,
son of Cuban migrants and a staunch supporter of most Cold War era
policies against Cuba, has sternly expressed his concerns over the CAA:
"You now have evidence of people coming to the U.S., [and] qualifying
for… benefits and they're moving back to Cuba and they're collecting the
Throughout the United States borders with Mexico, hundreds of Cuban
migrants continue to enter every day. This migratory pattern has
highlighted the more arduous process which other immigrant nationals
from dangerous, and/or war-torn countries receive. Non-Cuban migrants
facing violent conditions from their countries are often turned away or
struggle for years to legitimize their asylum claims.
This act is irrefutably outdated. Cuba cannot fully prosper to its full
potential as long as the Cuban Adjustment Act, as well as the embargo,
remain in place. Adjusting the CAA and lifting the embargo, coupled with
the continued progression in Cuban laws to benefit the Cuban people,
could provide better security and economic relief to Cuba, the United
States, and to the many other countries afflicted by the Cuban migration
crisis. If the United States government truly intends to normalize
relations with Cuba, then it is time to reconsider these last remaining
Cold War relics.
Source: The U.S. Needs To End Cuba's Immigration Blank Check - Forbes -
Source: The U.S. Needs To End Cuba's Immigration Blank Check - Forbes -