(Photo Credit: Blogs4Brains)
This is a guest note by Anya Landau French, director of the New America Foundation/U.S.-Cuba Policy Initiative. This post originally appeared at The Havana Note.
The Washington Post’s Eva Rodriguez, a daughter of Cuban immigrants, served up some tough love to the illegal immigrant community in “The Mexican Flag Has No Place In Immigration March,” following yesterday’s Washington, DC march for immigration reform.
Did they not choose to come to this country, and did they not know that they either entered illegally or illegally overstayed visas? Of course they did. Do they not appreciate that one of the things that makes this country great is the rule of law — unlike, sadly, some of the countries we leave behind? If so, undocumented immigrants must take responsibility for their plight.
I don’t intend to debate the broader issue of immigration reform here, though clearly, our system is just as Rodriguez calls it: dysfunctional. (We’re happy to have illegal immigrants come and – cheaply – move our lawn, clean our homes, wash our dishes, and gut and package our meat and poultry, until they get caught, sent home, and a new batch arrives.)
Rodriguez points out that she knows all too well the desperation that drives illegal immigrants to America – her parents left Castro’s Cuba in 1960, and were lucky to be welcomed here in the United States. And that got me thinking about the one group you won’t likely see represented at these marches: Cuban Americans. Why? Whereas all other illegal immigrants run from the law as long as they are in the United States, Cubans run to the law.
Thanks to the U.S. ‘wet foot, dry foot’ policy (and the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act which left the door open to Cubans who arrive by illegal means), as soon as an undocumented Cuban sets foot in the United States, no matter how he arrived, he will be entitled to government-funded adjustment assistance. After one year, he can apply for permanent residency. His path to citizenship was secure from the moment he arrived.
No other illegal immigrant gets that kind of treatment. It’s just one of the many ways in which United States policy continues to help distort Cuban reality. Maybe I’m just doling out tough love here, but would it hurt to treat Cuban undocumented immigrants the same as we treat other undocumented immigrants? Yes, it probably would. But maybe that would lead us to face the supreme irony of our policy toward Cuba. When we ban nearly all trade and travel to the island, is it any surprise that tens of thousands of Cubans choose to leave the island for the one country that offers a guaranteed path to citizenship?
— Anya Landau French