Castro Says Cuba Immigration Policy to Be Eased

Patricia Grogg

Foto: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES, August 2 (IPS) — Cuban President Raul Castro’s announcement of coming changes to immigration policy appears to be the result of repeated demands by the population for freedom to travel, a right ensnared for decades in the Cuba-United States conflict.

While he provided no details, Castro said progress was being made on reforming migration regulations, and added that the country was on the road to changing decisions that had a role to play at one time but that had “unnecessarily” lasted for too long.

The president’s remarks were part of a closing speech on Monday at a session of parliament, later broadcast on state television, in which he harshly criticized the dismissal of a female member of the ruling Communist Party of Cuba because of her religious beliefs and analyzed the economic situation.

He said the modifications of migration policy were aimed at strengthening Cuba’s ties with the émigré community, “whose composition has changed radically compared to the early decades of the Revolution,” in which the United States gave refuge to criminals of the Fulgencio Batista dictatorship and encouraged professionals to leave, “to drain the country of its lifeblood.”

Castro said that the majority of Cuban émigrés leave the country for economic reasons, although “a few still claim to be victims of political persecution to win supporters and aid from their sponsors abroad”.

He clarified, however, that an easing of migration policy would take into account Cuba’s right to defend itself “from the interventionist and subversive plans” of Washington and its allies, and would include “reasonable counter-measures to preserve the human capital created by the Revolution in the face of the talent theft applied by the powerful.”

The Cuban community abroad now totals some 1.7 million people. According to expert Antonio Ajá, professionals made up 12 percent of total émigrés in the last five years, “placing Cuba within current migration trends of theft and loss of important human capital.”

He said that while labor power was exported, the trend was not tapped for the country’s benefit.

The social benefits “of the value created by the labor force that emigrates from Cuba is limited to remittances sent from abroad and the various taxes applied” to these cash flows, Ajá said in an essay on the issue.

According to analysts, because of this reason and others, an easing of the regulations that limit Cubans’ right to travel abroad is called for. In the 1990s, the introduction of permits allowing people to live overseas, which made it possible for them to visit Cuba, changed the nature of emigration, which since the start of the Revolution had been seen as a permanent step.

But Cubans wishing to travel must have a “non-objection” letter from their workplace or school and a letter of invitation from someone in the destination country. With these documents, they apply for an exit permit, known as the “white card”. Many travelers complain of the expenses involved.

“Last year I went to Panama to visit a friend. I don’t know how much she must have paid for the invitation letter, but here, I spent more than 200 dollars for the passport and papers. To top it off, sometimes they don’t give you the visa, and you’re left standing there with your bags packed,” one woman told IPS after hearing the president’s speech.

Castro said that Cuba is the only country in the world whose citizens are permitted to settle and work in the United States without a visa, by virtue of the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966, whose 1995 revision, known as the “wet-foot/dry-foot” policy, encourages human trafficking and has led to the deaths of many Cubans.

An initial official recognition of the need for changes to Cuba’s migration policy was reflected in the economic and social policy guidelines approved by the Sixth Congress of the PCC in April. One of the articles of the guidelines provides for the consideration of a policy to facilitate tourist travel abroad by Cubans.

At the same time, one of the guidelines on foreign trade refers to a comprehensive strategy for exporting services that “includes a flexible analysis of the contracting of individual labor power.” According to official figures, about 50,000 Cuban professionals work in 76 different countries.

8 thoughts on “Castro Says Cuba Immigration Policy to Be Eased

  • Luis,
    I think you are going to love what I am going to tell you. I admit I was mistaken in speaking about poverty in the US as statistically insignificant.
    I had a look now at information not the one you sent but one from the the census bureau page 14

    The document states “The official poverty rate in 2009 was 14.3 percent” and there is a total “The number of people in poverty in 2009 (43.6 million) is the largest number in the 51 years for which poverty estimates have been published”. Still 14.3 percent is not a extremely high number. But it is not statistically insignificant like I claimed.
    Now I want you to take note. I do admit when I am mistaken. You should try do the same too. When you do that you are learning.

  • Julio,

    Of the 100 largest economies in the world, 51 are corporations. How many of them are based in the US? How can you say that ‘the very poor (…) and the billionaires’ are ‘insignificant’?

    The gap between the poor and the rich has never been bigger than nowadays.

    That’s why I laugh at your arguments.

    Note that I got my the data about the gap between the poor and the rich from a website of your own ideology. Just for the fun out of it.

  • Luis you did not understand what I said.
    What I said was that even if the Cuban government takes away the restriction for Cubans to travel they still need to be able to secure a visa in some country that will let them enter. Something that will not be easy considering they are a migratory risk and no country not even the US can do that.

    As for the laugh
    prove to me that I am wrong. Show me statistical data that shows otherwise.

  • “We also have to remember that to be able to exit Cuba they will need to have a visa to enter the country they will be going.”

    But Julio, EVERYWHERE you must have a visa to enter a foreign country!

    “Here in the US there is a strong middle class and it is a majority who belong there. So it could be said it is a more or less equitable system. Yes, we do have people that are very poor and we also do have the billionaires but they are not statistically significant. The great majority are just like you and me.”

    Please, don’t make me laugh.

  • Michael
    It is true that there is migration coming from central America and they are not state capitalism like Cuba but their type of capitalism is dysfunctional too.
    When there is a lot of corruption and most of the power and money is concentrated in the hands of few people then countries get into real trouble. That is why Cuba is in trouble and some of those Centro American countries are also in trouble. Because power and money is concentrated in few hands.

    Here in the US there is a strong middle class and it is a majority who belong there. So it could be said it is a more or less equitable system. Yes, we do have people that are very poor and we also do have the billionaires but they are not statistically significant. The great majority are just like you and me.

    Go to any of those other countries and you will noticed the super rich and those who have nothing. That kind of polarization is not healthy. The same happens in Cuba. If you replace money with power. Some have all the power. Some have none. Power and Money is almost the same thing.

  • Michael I suspect that if the Cuban government changed their policy to a totally open doors at the beginning many will go. We also have to remember that to be able to exit Cuba they will need to have a visa to enter the country they will be going.

    Even for professionals it may be difficult to secure a visa but let us assume that people are able to get some visa to travel to Mexico or any other country with the purpose to eventually get to the US and assuming that the exodus is sizable like about half a million to a million.

    Then what do you think will happen?

    I bet the US government will be obligated to change the migration policy towards Cuba.

    On the other hand having an open door means that Cubans can go back too. Many could also return. Or come and go and help the country with the influx of money.

    In the short run it may appear like they will be losing by an open door policy but in the long run it will be the best for Cuba.

    Open doors will be the best they can do and that is exactly what they should do.

    They will also get the added benefit of people outside Cuba sending remittances to family in Cuba.
    Usually what will happen is that many people of working age and with high education will be gone. But they will send back money to help their parents. For older people it is really hard to get used to living in another country.
    Keeping the door open for people coming back is necessary so that people wishing to return can.
    Assuming a truly economical migration then many will return with money back to Cuba to establish their own business or simply to retire.

  • but Julio, there is just as much migration from Mexico and the Central American republics, which cannot in any sense be characterized as “state capitalist.” A few years back I remember viewing a news feature where, as the reporter was taken through a middle class neighborhood of a Mexican provincial city. virtually half the residents of the houses along the street had migrated North. The reporter interviewed M.D.’s, teachers, pharmacists, etc. who said they intended to migrate North. They seemed to think that even a “shit job,” such as working in a fast food place or a supermarket, beat the paltry salaries they received in Mexico, where the only way to make sufficient money is to work for one of the drug cartells, and, while the money is good, nevertheless, such work only promises, in the words of Hobbes, that such a life that will be “short, brutal and unpredictable!”. Of course now, with our economy stagnant for more than three years, and with no promise that it will be picking up anytime soon, even these sources of employment are drying up. I supect that, just like other Latin American countries, such a granting more freedom of travel will be better for Cuba in the long run, as it will result in more remittances being sent home, which will be reflected in the rehab of homes, new appliances and furniture, etc. At least Cuba, thanks to the Revolution, has a population more educated than these other countries, as well as medical care, (almost) full employment, etc.

  • I am hoping to see a real positive change on this but I am afraid it will be disappointing.

    What I would like to see happen is total freedom to enter or exit the country for any Cuban.

    No limits.

    For Cubans holding passports from other countries do not require them to get a Cuban passport and treat them as citizen of that country.
    For Cubans wanting to leave and that have university education if they had gone thru social service years they should be free to go. Without having to ask anyone.
    I understand the desire to curb migration but that should never be done by placing coercive measures that prohibit it but by making the country more attractive to people.

    I also disagree with Raul’s statement about migration being economical. Even if that was truly the case how can one unlink economy with political system? Since this kind of “economical migration” shows their “socialism” is an economic failure.

    All goes back to the question. What is socialism? My answer is State monopoly Capitalism the worst type of capitalism or the most dysfunctional type of capitalism. Simply it does not work. From the economical point of view and even worse it always degenerates into a totalitarian regime.

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