The Cuban Adjustment Act still privileges Cuban migrants to the U.S. but hurts Cuba – People’s World

The Cuban Adjustment Act still privileges Cuban migrants to the US, but harms Cuba

Residents help Cuban migrants disembark near Key West, Florida, August 12, 2022. | Maria Martin / AP

“Perhaps if you had printed more about the operation you would have saved us from a colossal error,” railed President John F. Kennedy New York Times Publisher Turner Catledge. That Times and the US media had glossed over well-known preparations for the Bay of Pigs attack in April 1961. Catledge had removed the revealing content of reporter Tad Szulc’s lengthy message ten days earlier.

Media silence has accompanied other developments related to Cuba over the years. Many US progressives and liberals also tend to make little mention of US-Cuban affairs, the US economic blockade of Cuba being an example.

The Cuban Adjustment Act (CAA), which affects Cubans migrating to the United States, is receiving little attention while excitement and anger is growing over an unprecedented number of migrants, including Cubans, now crossing the US southern border. Officials there arrested 1.8 million migrants between October 2021 and August 2022.

Most respondents to an NPR/Ipsos poll believe an “invasion” is taking place. Measures taken against migrants have led to political division and deadlock. Sens. Lindsey Graham and Ted Cruz sent a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas Oct. 5 alleging that the Biden administration’s migration policy constitutes a “gross dereliction of duty … breach of your oath of office …[and] grounds for impeachment.”

Cubans supported by the CAA are welcome in the United States. This 1966 law allows Cuban immigrants and their immediate family members to easily become permanent US residents. To be eligible, the Cuban migrant must be “inspected, admitted or paroled” upon arrival. He or she waits a year while receiving welfare benefits, then applies for permanent residency and obtains a work permit. Other immigrants have to wait five years to apply.

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Why is Cuban immigration encouraged? The idea may have been to show the failure of a communist government by leaving the Cubans, or to break up popular unity in Cuba by emigration, or to strengthen the Cuban-American electoral bloc with newly arriving Cubans.

The number of Cuban migrants has increased recently. There were 9,822 “southwest border encounters” by border officials with Cubans in fiscal year 2020, 38,674 in fiscal year 2021, and 174,674 Cubans in the fiscal year ended October 1, 2022. Between October 2021 and June, border officials detained more than 1,300 arriving Cubans by sea in Florida.

Cubans suffer from shortages, high prices and low incomes mainly due to the US economic blockade and cuts in the remittances Cubans send to family members on the island. That’s a number of reasons to leave Cuba.

Additionally, in November 2021, Nicaragua allowed Cubans to enter the country without an entry visa. Migrants can now start their journey closer to the border than they previously had to travel through South America.

And most of the 20,000 Cubans who would have entered the United States annually, as authorized by a 1994 binational agreement, have not. That’s because entry visa processing has been almost non-existent since 2017, when the State Department recalled most of its embassy staff in Havana. This came in response to a mysterious neurological syndrome affecting US diplomats and staff.

Few Cubans could afford trips to US embassies in other countries to obtain visas. Consequently, leaving Cubans have resorted to irregular means. The State Department recently began sending diplomatic personnel back to its embassy in Havana.

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New rules apply. In 2017, the Obama administration ended the administration’s “wet feet, dry feet” policy that had been in place since 1995. During this time, Cubans apprehended at sea were returned to Cuba. Those who arrived and touched US soil were able to stay and eventually receive permanent residency status.

Cuban migrants crossing the US southern border still receive preferential treatment. They fail to provide the required proof of “lawful entry” and benefit from creative arrangements that turn illegal entry into legal one.

Currently, “nearly 98%” of Cuban migrants entering the United States remain there. Border officials apply the public health (anti-COVID) regulations known as Title 42 to all prospective immigrants. They immediately exclude half of them, but not the Cubans. Excluded migrants wait in Mexico or elsewhere for immigration judges to rule on their asylum claims.

Some of the arriving Cubans are given “humanitarian probation”. Under CAA regulations, this status is considered “lawful entry,” and the migrant can wait a year in the United States and then apply for—and usually receives—permanent residency.

Other Cubans who are not eligible for parole on humanitarian grounds also remain in the United States through a “bond” that requires them to appear before immigration judges “where they can begin a defense of their stay.” Most migrants in this group whose appeals are successful can expect to be granted permanent residency.

Some were unsuccessful, and this group received good news on February 23, 2022. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that Cuban migrants whose permanent residency application had failed could try again with likely success. The agency was responding to a 2021 immigration court ruling that any release of Cuban migrants from border detention, regardless of the circumstances, actually constitutes “lawful entry” or parole, as required by the CAA.

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Most Cubans leaving their country are young adults and children. They benefited from the quality education, health care, and social support that was their birthright. Their energy, talents, manpower and potential commitment would no longer contribute to Cuba’s national development and reconstruction project. It is believed that their departure weakened the ties of family life in Cuba, thereby making Cuban society less cohesive.

US leaders are likely to have few regrets. Ultimately, the US intention is to bring distress to Cuba, leading to regime change. Furthermore, the US economic blockade of Cuba, the military occupation of Guantanamo territory, destabilizing interventions in Cuba, and the CAA all add up to attacks on Cuba’s independence and national sovereignty. The silence of the media and political activists on these issues takes on an ominous quality, that of complicity in crime.

The international community enables the United Nations to deal with international crimes. According to the United Nations Charter, the Security Council may counter “any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or any act of aggression” by one nation against another. The General Assembly in 1965 unanimously passed Resolution 2131 stating thisNo state has the right to intervene, directly or indirectly, for any reason whatsoever, in the internal or external affairs of any state.”

To what situations would these authorizations apply if not to the cases of US aggression against Cuba cited here?


WT Whitney Jr.


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