Friday, May 20, 2016

Local restaurant owner reveals why he fled Cuba

Local restaurant owner reveals why he fled Cuba

Just feet from the loop, in a city about 2 square miles long, sits a
quaint, unassuming little restaurant where the authentic foods trump its

La Rumba Cocina Latina located in Windcrest is where people go for a
taste of Cuban cuisine.

"Cuba, for me, lives in my heart," Antonio de Jesus Utra, the chef and
owner said.

He fled the communist island in 2002.

"Wow!" he recalled about his past. "For me, it was scary."

Utra was an art dealer by trade. He said he faced arrest in Cuba for
making too much money. That's when he left his family behind for Mexico
and hired a coyote to smuggle him into El Paso, TX for chance to live
the American dream.

He eventually reunited with his son in America, who also escaped Cuba
via speed boat.

"Cubans have better treatment than any other country in the world,"
Lance Curtright, a San Antonio immigration attorney said.

Curtright's clients are mainly from Mexico.

He sees their path to legal status in stark contrast to the Cuban
Adjustment Act from the 1960's.

"It's under a procedurally ordered fashion," Curtright explained. "At
the very beginning, they present themselves to a Border Patrol agent.
They get a legal document to come into the United States, and after 1
year they become a lawful permanent resident with a social security
card. They can pay taxes and they are easily assimilated into the system."

The Cuban population has steadily grown in the United States,
accelerating from 737,000 in 1990 to more than 1.1 million in 2013,
according to statistics compiled by the Migration Policy Institute.

Studies show how taxpayers fork over hundreds of millions of dollars for
public assistance programs to help Cuban refugees while they wait to
become legal residents.

Curtright said many of clients are forced to live in the shadows.

"You can't go and get a driver's license for example," he told Fox San
Antonio's Ryan Wolf. "You can't go and get a job, at least not lawfully.
They're greatly limited in what they can do, which can cause a great
deal of anxiety and a great deal of hardship on them and their families."

Gerardo Breniz remembered the struggles he and his family faced growing
up as Mexican immigrants.

"It just rocked my world," the 25-year-old said. "It just shook
everything from the bottom up."

He and his sister lived in constant fear as children, while their mother
worked long hours on a "visa overstay".

Eventually, his family had to leave their home and go back to Mexico.

"It was quite an experience," he emotionally said. "You see your mom in
handcuffs. You see an immigration officer yelling at your mother. And
then having to leave everything behind."

Breniz is now a legal assistant in San Antonio. He wants to see
immigration reform, in line with the treatment of Cubans, especially for
Central Americans who flee gang violence and poverty.

"I think that it is fair," Breniz said about the Cuban Adjustment Act.
"And, I think it's important that they receive this privilege."

Chef Utra hopes the law doesn't change just because relations between
the United States and Cuba start to normalize.

He said Cuba is still very much under dictatorship rule.

"Maybe in the economic aspect, but not in the political life," he said
about any changes happening in his home country.

Local legislators, including Congressman Henry Cuellar, believe the law
needs to be change when it comes to the way Cubans are able to enter the
United States.

The Obama Administration has made it clear that won't happen anytime soon.

La Rumba Cocina Latina celebrates its 1-year anniversary in June.

Source: Local restaurant owner reveals why he fled Cuba | KABB -

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