Immigration Reform and the Cuban Adjustment Act: For Some, A Path to Citizenship


(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


5 comments on “Immigration Reform and the Cuban Adjustment Act: For Some, A Path to Citizenship

  1. Raf Davies says:

    Thanks to the Cuban Adjustment Act (CAA), multitudes of Cubans (most of whom have little allegiance to this country) are coming through our borders, our airports, or our seas (by boat or raft), whose first priority is not “freedom”, but getting the government hand-outs their relatives tell them about.
    Thanks to the CAA, many non-Cuban foreigners are marrying Cubans for the sole purpose of obtaining immigration benefits—scam marriages which officers try to catch, but which sometimes is difficult, due to time and staff constraints.
    Thanks to the CAA, many applicants are people born in other countries who claim Cuban parents (and, therefore, Cuban citizenship) and “prove” it by presenting false Cuban “birth certificates”, which they can buy in Hialeah.
    Thanks to the CAA, our tax dollars are going to government programs for these Cubans, many of whom claim disability, even when that disability occurred in Cuba. Food stamps, cash, and Medicaid are given liberally to any Cuban who makes it to our land; yet many of our own citizens are denied government assistance and continue to be unemployed and/or go hungry.
    Because there are selfish politicians who care more about getting the Cuban/Latino vote than they do about doing what is right, this outdated and abused act is permitted to remain in place.
    With so much handed to the Cubans—residency after one year and one day, government assistance, powerful Cuban-American community leaders, etc., etc., you would think that they would be appreciative and at least learn English, but that is not the case. Many Cubans are here decades and can’t speak a word of English. Many of them claim a disability when they come for their naturalization interview, so that they can be exempt from the English language requirements. Officers are presented with waiver applications–doctor’s reports (and many of those doctors are scam artists) claiming anything from cognitive impairment to vitamin B deficiencies for their clients. It’s out of control.
    When the newly-to-be-naturalized Cubans go to their naturalization ceremony, they don’t understand a word being said and have little appreciation for the video about immigration history (with many images from Ellis Island, which would make most of us tear from emotion). Yet, they applaud the loudest when “Cuba” is read on the list of countries being represented at the ceremony, because Cuba has the largest number of new U.S. citizens. (Surely you are aware that many of the others have had to wait years to get a visa to come to this country.)
    Officers have also seen the now-aging “Marielito” population continuing to wreak havoc on our society, with their mile-long rap sheets, for which a lot of time must be spent by an interviewing officer who checks the types of crimes, making sure there are arrest reports and dispositions for each. Even with the serious crimes, for which others can be deported, the Cubans continue to enjoy life in the U.S., because Cubans can’t be deported.
    Why is it that many of our elected officials undermine the immigration system, and turn a blind eye to the abuse that the CAA continues to perpetuate?


  2. Kevin says:

    Very interesting, I wonder how many Cubans would change their political stripes if they were not automatically offered citizenship in the US just for being Cuban. They are the only Hispanic group that tends to vote conservative i.e. Republican once they get the right to vote. It really doesn’t seem fair that we only extend this offer to Cubans.


  3. OldLady says:

    I’m an old lady over 80, alone and got my family in europe. in the early 40s i married my husband. he was a born american citizen and served in the air force. my son, his wife and my grandsons all can’t get a green card. they’re all over 21, of course. even my son has to wait at least ten years until he MAY get a green card (that’s how long it’ll take…at LEAST).
    so what about my grandsons? forget it all together! they’re not even eligible for a green card! all they can do is playing the so called “green card lottery”…and the chance to win is minimal.
    to sum it up: since my husband passed away, i got nobody here anymore! nobody! no matter with how many immigration lawyers i speak, nobody can help me. but i need my family here, i got no help here without them! who knows how long i will remain here on earth.
    but yet, the hispanics get green cards, working permits, the so called “dream act” which our crooked government tries to push through once in a while and so on and so on.
    yes, even when you go shopping or try to call customer support…they offer everything in spanish as well! or look at our president. he only talks about “hispanic family reunion” when he speaks about immigration reform…everything exclusively for hispanics! they come in illegally and get rewarded! and what do our european allies get?! NOTHING! they’re just good for sending their military men and women to die for us (iraq and afghanistan), to send money and tourists…but never get something in return! and you wonder why they don’t like our government any longer, why some of them refuse to cooperate any longer…


  4. Don Bacon says:

    Right, get those American teenagers off their skateboards and put them out in the ag fields doing stoop labor cutting lettuce all day long, or washing dishes in city restaurants, or cleaning toilets and making beds in thousands of hotel rooms, or up on hot asphalt roofs, or doing the estate landscaping — no, wait, these jobs aren’t really being done — all those hardworking people are (according to Brittanicus) on welfare, in subsidized housing! Who knew? So don’t forget to give your State assembly a piece of your mind. Who needs a mind anyhow. It’s better to listen to the Border patrol.


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