The Cuban Adjustment Act and Future Emigrants / Ivan Garcia
Posted on January 30, 2015
One of the few Havanans not happy with the historic agreements of
December 17th between President Obama and General Raul Castro was
Dagoberto, a guy approaching forty who got out of jail six months ago
after serving a six-year sentence for marijuana possession.
"I have family in la yuma (US), but because of my drug possession record
I don't qualify for the family reunification program. My only option is
to throw myself into the sea and make it to the Mexican border," he said
while drinking a Corona beer in a Havana bar.
A couple of times in 2014, Dagoberto tried to reach the United States.
"The first time the American Coast Guard intercepted me. I spent $3,000
to buy a motor and gas and with a group of friends we prepared a wooden
"The second time I boarded a plane for Ecuador. But customs in Quito
sent me back to Cuba. It's rumored that with the new policy, the
Adjustment Act's days are numbered, for people who plan to leave on a
raft or enter through a third country. I have to hurry if I want to get
to the North."
In a park in Vedado, two blocks from the United States Interests Section
(USIS) in Cuba, where from the early hours in the morning people line up
for visas, the topic of discussion is the Cuban Adjustment Act.
In the past two years, Ihosvany has been denied a visa four times. But
he keeps trying. "A cousin in Orlando invited me and they denied me a
tourist visa. Now I'm doing the paperwork to leave for family
reunification, to see if I have more luck."
USIS consular officials insist that for those people who want to travel
or emigrate to the United States, the strategy of applying over and over
for a visa is not the best.
Yulia, desperate to leave the country, openly ignores them. In a house
near USIS, she fills out the paperwork to take to the consulate again.
"Three times they've told me no. We are going to see if the fourth time
is lucky, because a friend in Chicago got me into a university program.
If what they say is true, that the Adjustment Act will be repealed in
2015, there will be another Mariel Boatlift. There are tens of thousands
of people who want to leave Cuba."
Every year, the Interests Section awards more than 20,000 visas under
the Family Reunification program. In the last 20 years, about half a
million people have left the Island through the migration accords signed
by Bill Clinton and Fidel Castro in 1994.
But demand exceeds supply. Those who don't have relatives or spouses
resort to any trick or simply opt to launch themselves into the
turbulent waters of the Florida Straits in a rubber raft.
In an attempt to discourage the worrying growth in illegal journeys from
the Island, the US authorities have reiterated that the immigration
policy and the Coast Guard operations will continue without changes and
insist that only Congress can repeal the current laws on Cuban refugees.
The Coast Guard issued a government warning, after an unprecedented
growth in the illegal flow of emigrants from Cuba during the second half
of December and the first days of January, coinciding with President
Barack Obama's announcement of the normalization of relations with Havana.
According to analysts in the United States, the steps taken by Obama
don't alter the Cuban Adjustment Act and it is not a priori in danger of
being repealed by a presidential act. It is a Federal law, Public Law
89-732/1966, approved by the U.S. 89th Congress. Being a public and
general interest law — unlike a "Private Laws" — it can only be amended,
revised or revoked by the Congress of the United States of America.
But the Cuban rafters appear to have deaf ears. A total of 890 Cubans
have been intercepted in the Straits of Florida and in the Caribbean
zone, or have managed to make it to the U.S. coast since the beginning
of the 2015 Fiscal Year, last October 1. Of them, 577 have done so
during December and the first days of January in an escalation that has
set off alarms in Washington and Miami.
After Obama's announcement, the Cuban side captured 421 people at sea.
Everything seems to indicate that the flow could increase.
Cuban-American members of Congress and Senators are questioning the
letter and spirit of the law.
Many Cubans say they are politically persecuted and so they flee,
invoking this when they decide to seek asylum in the United States. But
in a few months they return to Cuba, as tourists. Incongruities that are
difficult to explain.
A majority of Cubans, on both shores, demanded the normalization of
relations with the United States and the end of the embargo. But,
according to a recent survey conducted by Florida International
University, 85% of Cuban-Americans in south Florida favor the
continuation of the Adjustment Act. Even among the generation that left
Cuba between 1959 and 1962, only 36% favor its elimination, while 64%
It doesn't look like a winner. If the relationship between the
governments goes down the path of good neighbors, the White House will
have no reason to give special treatment to Cuban citizens.
If the Adjustment Act was created to legalize the status of thousands of
Cubans who fled from the Castro autocracy, then it should be applied
that way. And Cubans who take shelter under this law, should only be
able to travel to the Island in exceptional cases. Not to spend time
with their families or have a beer with friends in the neighborhood.
This is privilege enjoyed by no other citizen in the world, to settle in
the United States. Either the laws are abided by or their existence
makes no sense.
Photo: One of the lines that forms daily outside the United States
Interest Section in Cuba to request visas. Taken from "Voice of America."
20 January 2015
Source: The Cuban Adjustment Act and Future Emigrants / Ivan Garcia |
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