A remarkable report in a Florida Keys newspaper about several Cubans claiming to have landed by boat may have uncovered a massive benefit fraud scam by refugees receiving government hand-outs of up to $8,000 per person.
The Upper Keys Times, a local weekly newspaper in Key Largo, Florida, reported that a group of six Cubans claimed they had just come ashore on January 23 at the docks of the Caribbean Club at mile marker 104 of the Florida Keys highway. ("Cubans land at Caribbean Club" by Sheridan Woods, Upper Keys Times, January 27, 2004.)
But according to a U.S. Border Patrol agent quoted in the story, "not one person outside witnessed anyone coming ashore." In fact, a patron reported seeing the same group walking in front of the business earlier.
The Upper Keys Times also reported that, although the group said that they were seeking political asylum, the Border Patrol refused to take them into custody. The Border Patrol advised them to go to the (government agency formerly known as the) Immigration and Naturalization Service facility in Miami instead.
Why would these unknown persons—presumably foreign nationals from Cuba—go through the trouble of faking an illegal entry into the United States at the Florida Keys?
Upper Keys Times writer Sheridan Woods solved the mystery of the phony Cuban rafters with a little help from an anonymous source. She writes:
"A former law enforcement officer, speaking on conditions of anonymity, told the Times that 'all you had to do is look at their appearance. They were well dressed, completely dry, not sunburned, and were wearing all American-looking clothing and shoes.
"'It's a scam that happens every day in this country,' he said.
"He explained these people are already living here as illegal aliens and they do this to get the money and benefits that come with asylum. They take the money, and because nothing is stopping them from going back to Cuba, they return to their country and live very well.
"'When they are out of money they do it all over again,' the source said.
"The confidential source told the newspaper that if they go to the INS, they will not be refused since they have no U.S. identification and they speak only Spanish. They will be given the benefits, and the INS [will] start a file on them.
"He said seeking asylum gives them more than just the right to a green card. If they are granted asylum the refugees will be given $8,000 per person, seven tax-free years in the United States and full medical benefits.
"They basically get everything an American citizen gets and more, and it has now become an issue of Homeland Security," he said.
"The confidential source said they are simply taking advantage of our government on a state and federal level and taxing all our resources."
Three cheers for Sheridan Woods and the anonymous law enforcement patriot!
The phony Cuban rafter story supports the investigative work on refugee resettlement done last year by syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin. ("Keep Iraqi POWS Off American Dole" by Michelle Malkin, April 1, 2003) Malkin wrote:
"As a result, an estimated 6,000 enemy Iraqi soldiers have resettled in the U.S. at public expense since 1993. Their welcome gifts included air travel, Medicaid, job and language-training assistance, health care, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), food stamps, Refugee Cash Assistance, and other welfare and housing benefits worth about $7,000 per person."
Catching the phony Cuban rafters red-handed at the Caribbean Club may have revealed merely the tip of a refugee fraud iceberg.
The cash windfall refugees receive from unwitting American taxpayers might also explain why the price of alien smuggling from Cuba is at least $8,000 per head – also according to the Upper Keys Times story. The price is right, considering that the successful refugee is expecting just as much in benefits at the end of the journey.
So hats off to a local weekly newspaper for telling the truth about immigration fraud—doing the job most American newspapers won't do.
Unfortunately, the Upper Keys Times didn't start posting its archived stories on the internet until sometime after the January 27 issue. But it's posted four interesting letters about the story.
In a quaint Florida Keys twist on the "we are a nation of immigrants" theme, one angry Hispanic letter-writer invoked Ponce de Leon to justify illegal Hispanic immigration! Makes a pleasant change from the usual Statue of Liberty stuff, doesn't it?
Anyway, why not thank the Upper Keys Times and Sheridan Woods [e-mail Rebekah Mills, Upper Keys Times publisher] for an immigration coverage job well done.
Great investigative journalism can come from anywhere—even a weekly newspaper on an island paradise.
Juan Mann [send him email] is a lawyer and the proprietor of DeportAliens.com.