Andrés Gómez: The beginning of the end of the Cuban Adjustment Act

Jan. 18, 2016
by Andrés Gómez, director, Areítodigital

Miami.- The legislative initiatives of Republican Congressman Carlos Curbelo (Miami area), and Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida — candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination — both born in this country and sons of Cuban parents, submitted in their respective Congressional entities under the same name: “Cuban Immigrant Work Opportunity Act of 2015.”

They have as a specific objective the elimination of benefits that Cuban citizens automatically receive upon touching U.S. soil, granted by the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966 and amended in 1995 as the policy of Dry Foot, Wet Foot.

According to the policy of Dry Foot, Wet Foot, any Cuban citizen who arrives in United States territory and declares himself or herself to be politically persecuted, obtains the status of legal immigrant, is granted a work permit, is offered in an expedited manner permanent residency in this country after a year and a day of being admitted to the United States, and the right to become a citizen.

They also automatically receive important economic and social benefits defined by the Cuban Haitian Entrant Program (Ley del Programa de Entrantes Cubano Haitiano) of 1980, including decent and safe housing, food or food stamps, medical assistance and other financial help and social services. No other group of immigrants has those privileges.

For years the Cuban-American extreme right-wing, of whom Messrs. Rubio and Curbelo are leaders, has declared itself as an enemy of the Cuban Adjustment Act in its entirety, mainly because of the Cubans who arrived to this country since 1980 through the Mariel process and afterwards since 1995, the year that current migratory accords were signed between the United States and Cuba, totaling hundreds of thousands.

According to the Pew Research Center, since 1990 more than 500,000 Cubans have arrived in the United States. Between 2000 and 2013, 250,906 Cubans received U.S. citizenship. Just in 2013, 30,482 were naturalized, according to the Department of Homeland Security. Census figures show that the majority of Cubans who live in the United States were born in Cuba. The majority does not support the right-wing’s policy of hostility against the Cuban people. The blockade is a fundamental part of that hostility. That opposition has just one explanation: The majority of families and other loved ones live in Cuba and their victims.

On the contrary, these Cubans favor and vote in elections for those candidates who support the normalization of relations with Cuba and not for candidates of the Cuban-American extreme rightwing. Besides, hundreds of thousands of people exercise their right to travel to Cuba and visit and help their families on the island. In addition, many reintegrate into the Cuban society and culture in diverse ways. This is anathema for the Cuban-American extremists.

It’s important to know that according to the Census, 70% of the 2 million Cubans (those born in Cuba and our descendants) who live in the United States, we 1.4 million live in the state of Florida and of those, 75% of us live in Miami-Dade County, Metropolitan Miami. Therefore, any elected official such as a Representative or Senator for the state, has to be very careful how to present a piece of legislation to Congress and the public that ends a U.S. policy providing so any privileges to those Cubans and their families, for fear of incurring the danger of being unseated. That is why they didn’t dare do it for so many years.

It is a propitious moment for these two individuals to present their respective and singular legislation. In the first place, the constant declarations by the White House that the Obama administration does not contemplate any changes in the Cuban Adjustment Act whatsoever. Therefore, it falls to the Cuban-American right-wing extremists to begin its recall, even if step-by-step for now.

Secondly, Cuba’s Migratory Law of January 2013, which permits its citizens to leave the country legally and return within 24 months without losing any of their rights in Cuba as Cuban citizens. It is a substantial change from the previous migratory situation. Thirdly, the large increase of Cubans entering various United States ports in the last year, ever since the December 2014 announcement about the normalization of relations between both countries. More than 50,000 have entered legally and illegally, due to speculation about the possible overturning of the Cuban Adjustment Act, despite the repeated denials of the White House.

It is a situation that has exacerbated public opinion, given the scandal in the press in recent months with the number of Cuban emigrés in Central America heading North trying to cross the U.S. border. This has created a general fear of another avalanche of Cubans trying to enter through irregular means into the United States.

And lastly, perhaps the most important in offering a cover of support to Rubio’s and Curbelo’s legislation is the general resentment of other immigrants, especially Latin Americans, over the special treatment given to Cuban emigrés for decades, now causing a crisis. Even more importantly, the particular resentment of Cubans residing in Miami and other parts of the United States, due to their view that the most recent Cuban emigrés in their immense majority are not traditional emigrés by any means, but rather markedly opportunist persons.

Although the economic, not political, nature of the Cuban immigrants is widely recognized for many years, even by the same Cuban community settled in this country, Cuba’s Migratory Law of January 2013 has changed the rules of the game regarding the possibilities of the Cuban immigrant relations with Cuba, especially in the United States.

From the point of view of many Cubans emigrés, the blatant use by recent Cuban immigrants of the financial and other benefits of the Cuban Adjustment Act — in a manner that borders on impudence — for themselves and their families here and in Cuba, has nothing to do with the objectives of that law.

This is true above all in times like the current one. On the one hand, there are major cutbacks of social programs to workers in this country who have worked long and hard years, and on the other hand, for obsolete reasons of political gain, new Cuban immigrants, not having worked in this country, receive those benefits. Those who are here for years consider them not deserving of any of it.

This situation is the product of maintaining a policy of aggression against the Cuban people, which continues to cause them harm, including those Cubans who want to take advantage for their own benefit. This infamous law now 50 years in existence has degenerated to this state.

Last October a conservative Congressman from Arizona, Paul Gosar, submitted legislation to Congress, “Ending Special National Origin-Based Immigration Programs for Cubans Act of 2015, with the aim of overturning in its totality the Cuban Adjustment Act. According to this Congress member, it is costing the U.S. taxpayer billions of dollars.

So then, this seems to be the beginning of the end of the Cuban Adjustment Act, and this initiative of both U.S. legislators of the Cuban-American extremist right-wing is foreseeing it. As that infamous and opportunist Senator Marco Rubio maintains, his legislation is just the first step… Hopefully it will be!