Memo From Middle America: New Wave Of Cubans Airlifted From Central America—Time To Scrap The Cuban Adjustment Act!
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The first of 180 Cuban “refugees” arrived in Texas this weekend, the vanguard of “thousands” that are on the way [First of 180 Cuban refugees arrive in Laredo, by Jesse Degollado, January 15, 2016]. Ironically, the reason so many are arriving is because Cuban-American relations are improving and Cuban migrants fear they are going to lose their privileged status. And they should—the policy is a Cold War relic and a way for Latin American countries to continue to exploit us.


Interestingly, the current situation was created because Latin American nations were unapologetically closing their borders to Cuban migrants. In November, Costa Rica closed its border to Cubans being smuggled in from Panama. 8,000 Cubans already in Costa Rica were prevented from crossing into Nicaragua when that country closed its border to them. This created a diplomatic crisis in Central America and Costa Rican presidente Guillermo Solis bemoaned the “lack of solidarity” among Central Americans. [Central American countries agree to safe passage for Cuban migrants marooned in Costa Rica, by Zach Dyer, Tico Times, December 29, 2015]

Our southern neighbors lecture us on how great Latin American immigration is for us—but they don’t seem keen about having immigrants in their own nations. Funny, that.

But not to worry. Several of them got together with the UN-linked International Organization for Migration (IOM). Their plan: fly the Cubans from Costa Rica to El Salvador, bus them to Guatemala, and then bus them to southern Mexico. Nicaragua, which has close ties to Communist Cuba, is thus bypassed. In Mexico, the Cubans receive a 20-day transit visa to get across the country and into the United States [Cubans, Fearing Loss of Favored Status in U.S., Rush to Make an Arduous Journey, by Frances Robles, New York Times, January 9, 2016]

After the first group of Cubans arrives successfully, the plan is to ship all the rest of the 8,000 Cubans in Costa Rica northward [Stranded Cuban migrants say goodbye to Costa Rica as airlift begins, by Zach Dyer, Tico Times, January 13, 2016] Presumably, the 3,000 Cubans stuck in Panama will also soon be on the way.

Supposedly, this is a one-time deal. And there seems to be some tightening up in the region. According to the New York Times (below) Ecuador started requiring visas recently; it didn’t before, so many Cubans started the trek north from there. The Costa Rican government also said any Cubans entering after December 18th will be deported. [Costa Rica to deport Cuban migrants who lack visa, by L. Arias, Tico Times, December 28, 2015]

But whether this plan actually is a one-time deal remains to be seen. The number of Cubans fleeing their homeland for America has increased. And as long as we take them in, they’re going to continue coming by one route or another.

The real problem isn’t the duplicity of Latin American leaders, but the policies of our own government. After the Cuban Revolution of 1959 and the resulting exodus, Cubans have received special treatment via the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act and its various revisions.

These include:

  • The “Wet Foot, Dry Foot” policy—Cubans intercepted at sea are sent back to Cuba, but if they can get on U.S. soil, they aren’t deported and can apply for legal permanent residence and citizenship.
  • Cubans can also be officially admitted as refugees.
  • Cubans are eligible for the diversity lottery.
  • Cubans also have their own special lottery, officially designated as the Special Cuban Migration Program [SCMP]. The last registration period was in the late 1990s but it could be re-opened at any time.
  • The Meissner Memo, issued by former INS Commissioner Doris Meissner, mandates that, even if Cubans sneak into the United States illegally, they are entitled to the rights and privileges of the Cuban Adjustment Act.
There’s actually no sign our government is going to change any of these policies any time soon—does Washington ever do anything that might reduce immigration? —but among Cubans there is a perception the thaw in U.S.-Cuba relations will lead to a rollback. Thus, the inadvertent effect of détente in the Caribbean is yet another Cuban exodus.

In passing, it’s worth observing other Latinos, especially Mexicans, often complain about the special treatment Cubans receive. Of course, practically speaking, the vast majority of non-Cuban Latinos aren’t deported either. I suppose it’s the principle of the thing.

And they do have a point. Now that America is normalizing relations with Cuba, why should Cubans have a special status?

Indeed, in 2013 even Marco Rubio (!) noticed the Cuban Adjustment Act was being abused and called for its re-examination. He said:

“I don’t criticize anyone who wants to go visit their mom or dad or their dying brother or sister in Cuba. But I am telling you it gets very difficult to justify someone’s status as an exile and refugee when a year and a half after they get here they are flying back to that country over and over again.” [Cuban Immigration By Boat Surges Amid Fears Of Policy Changes, by Brianna Lee, International Business Times, January 13, 2015.
Can anyone imagine a real political “refugee” returning to their country for regular visits? And if Marco Rubio is willing to admit this, why isn’t everybody else?

I have sympathy for Cuba. My family and I visited Cuba in 2014, on a one-week church mission trip. I saw the poverty and Communist propaganda on the island. But I found the people welcoming and friendly, and when they discovered I was American, they seemed even friendlier. Also, the Cubans have done a great job in preserving all those 1950s-era classic cars, including a ’57 Ford Fairlane convertible my family took a ride in.

Lilia, Allan, David and Raphael Wall in a '57 Ford Fairlane Convertible in Havana.

That said, the best way to help Cubans is to help them in their own country, just as with unfortunates in the Middle East. And though Latin Americans are right about our double standard, U.S. immigration policy isn’t about them, it’s about us. We have the right to permit or forbid the entrance of anyone and of any nationality.

The Cuban Adjustment Act has outlived its usefulness. It ought to be abolished as we prepare for a general immigration shutdown.

The era of mass immigration must end if the American nation is to survive.

That wouldn’t prevent Americans, of their own free will, from helping foreigners through churches, private charities, business investment and trade. But the Cold War is over. The purpose of our immigration policy shouldn’t be to fight a nonexistent Soviet Bloc. It should be to serve our own national interests. And it should be decided by Americans, not by foreign governments or prospective immigrants themselves.

American citizen Allan Wall (email him) moved back to the U.S.A. in 2008 after many years residing in Mexico. Allan's wife is Mexican, and their two sons are bilingual. In 2005, Allan served a tour of duty in Iraq with the Texas Army National Guard. His VDARE.COM articles are archived here; his articles are archived here ; his News With Views columns are archived here; and his website is here.

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