San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

What the US can learn from its ‘Cuban immigration policy’

As a group, Cuban immigrants to the United States have been a great success. Their success has been because, like all immigrants, they come to the United States seeking opportunity. They work hard, seek education, take care of their families and while they assimilate as quickly as they can, they retain a remarkable pride of national origin. They live in Cuban neighborhoods, retain their Spanish fluency and concentrate in the State of Florida. In just one generation, they have produced a viable presidential candidate. Remarkable.

The U.S. is in the throes of immigration reform, and we can learn a lot from our own experience with how we are treating the Cubans. A little history: Many Cuban migrants, especially the initial cohorts, came because of the change in government in 1959 would mean political persecution. Some refugees came out of fear of economic restrictions. The great majority of Cubans who’ve arrived since the mid-sixties would qualify as economic refugees. Some of course, were and are, ordinary criminals. As a result of the Cold War tactics of the United States, many Cubans served from the earliest days in the U.S. military and intelligence services. I suspect that most Cuban-Americans would agree – at least privately – with this characterization.

But I want to remind you that as human beings Cubans are no more talented, civic-minded and disinclined towards crime than any other immigrant group to the United States. Cuban achievements occur in spite of the fact that they typically have lower English proficiency, lower family incomes, and lower educational attainment than other groups of immigrants. They are overwhelmingly people of color. But something happens to Cubans that is denied to every other ethnic group since the imposition of immigration quotas before and just after World War II.

Young people from Cuba and Colombia are sworn in as United States citizens during a naturalization ceremony in Homestead, Florida, in February 2015.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images/AFP

Cubans, even those who went first to Mexico in order to sneak across the border, are welcomed and supported with quick access to legal residence and citizenship. Those rights don’t just deliver the right to remain in the United States, they bestow access to the full panoply of social services available to every other U.S. citizen. If an undocumented Cuban shows up on land in the United States, “They get a work permit, social security card, public assistance for food and accommodations, Medicare if eligible or Medicaid. They are not, as refugees, put in jail until their case is decided, but immediately paroled, and after a year can apply for permanent residency (green card) and citizenship after 5 years. Children can go to school without fear of arrest.” For undocumented Cubans, “The treatment is 180 degrees different from others. …” Compared to any other immigrant group, legal or illegal, Cubans are mollycoddled.

The result: Cubans have prospered, quickly becoming a viable, contributing part of the American nation. Big surprise.

The current argument is to find a way to withdraw the special status of these now politically powerful voters. I am not taking sides in that fight. My purpose is to point out the elephant that no one is talking about. The continuing liberal treatment of these migrants has created what every reasonable U.S. citizen hopes will happen to our immigrants: They quickly succeed.

Withdrawing privileges from Cubans will be difficult, as the (largest) swing state of Florida has become in effect, a gerrymandered district of Cuban sentiment and support. Oddly, our political inability to end the special treatment of Cuban migrants – about half of whom these days are undocumented – could have an opposite effect. I suggest that we look at immigration reform with an eye to what we can learn from our “Cuban immigration policy.” That policy is, succinctly put: Once they are here, we welcome the immigrants into the economy and the culture. They succeed, and so does the country.

Michael Crump is a retired former professor, former human resources consultant and former lot-of-things. He lives on, and writes from, a small coffee farm in Turrubares. His novels, “Candyman’s War” and “The Oligarch,” are set during the Guatemalan civil war.

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Humberto Capiro

Since the passing of the Immigration and Reform Control Act (IRCA), 6 million illegal aliens have received amnesty in the United States. The IRCA Amnesty was supposed to “wipe the slate clean” and instead it’s lead to the current situation of 12-20 million illegal aliens living in the country.
The Seven Amnesties Passed by Congress
1. Immigration and Reform Control Act (IRCA), 1986: A blanket amnesty for some 2.7 million illegal aliens
2. Section 245(i) Amnesty, 1994: A temporary rolling amnesty for 578,000 illegal aliens
3. Section 245(i) Extension Amnesty, 1997: An extension of the rolling amnesty created in 1994
4. Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA) Amnesty, 1997: An amnesty for close to one million illegal aliens from Central America
5. Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act Amnesty (HRIFA), 1998: An amnesty for 125,000 illegal aliens from Haiti
6. Late Amnesty, 2000: An amnesty for some illegal aliens who claim they should have been amnestied under the 1986 IRCA amnesty, an estimated 400,000 illegal aliens
7. LIFE Act Amnesty, 2000: A reinstatement of the rolling Section 245(i) amnesty, an estimated 900,000 illegal aliens

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Humberto Capiro

As a result of this agreement, migration talks between the United States and Cuba are supposed to
occur twice yearly. No migration talks have been held since January 2004, however, because
DOS cancelled them due to Cuba’s refusal to discuss the following key issues: Cuba’s issuance of
exit permits for all qualified migrants; Cuba’s cooperation in holding a new registration for an
immigrant lottery; the need for a deeper Cuban port utilized by the U.S. Coast Guard for the
repatriation of Cubans interdicted at sea; Cuba’s responsibility to permit U.S. diplomats to travel
to monitor returned migrants; and Cuba’s obligation to accept the return of Cuban nationals
determined to be excludable from the United States.15
As a consequence of the migration agreements and interdiction policy, a “wet foot/dry foot”
practice toward Cuban migrants has evolved. Put simply, Cubans who do not reach the shore (i.e.,
dry land), are returned to Cuba unless they cite fears of persecution. Those Cubans who
successfully reach the shore are inspected by DHS and generally permitted to stay in the United
States and adjust under CAA the following year.

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Humberto Capiro

In 1994, the U.S. set a quota of 20,000 immigrant visas annually for Cubans. Of this number, 5,000 come from a lottery system. This special lottery administered by American officials in Havana gives Cubans permanent U.S. residency. However, it has not been done on annual basis since its implementation in 1995. To gain a visa from this special lottery is highly desired by Cubans since those selected are entitled to a Green Card and work assistance in the United States. In addition, children of the winners of the lottery are allowed to enroll in the public school system. One of the biggest incentives is that lottery winners may be eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship within five years of winning the lottery. However, there are some requirements as to who can apply for the lottery. Eligible applicants must be between 18 and 55 years old and have a minimum of a high school education. Eligible individuals must also have been employed for the past two years. After winning the lottery, applicants are required to pass an immigration visa interview as part of the screening process. The interview is conducted by the U.S. Cuban Interests Section in Havana and the applicant must also submit medical records and any criminal records. The purpose of the screening process is to ensure that the applicant will not become a burden to the United States government. Lottery winners are entitled to bring their spouse and children under 21 years of age to the United States.

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