By Dawn Gable
HAVANA TIMES — In August of last year, Rep. David Rivera introduced two proposals for legislation in an attempt to modify the Cuban Adjustment Act. If passed the two combined would stop Cuban immigrants from voting or visiting Cuba for 10 years!
Currently Cuban’s who reach dry land in the United States are automatically admitted into the country. In one year + one day they can apply for permanent residency. Five years later, they can apply for citizenship, which comes with the right to vote.
With HR2771, Rivera seeks to make Cubans wait five years before being eligible for permanent residency and thus ten years for citizenship and voting rights.
Why would Rep. Rivera want to deny Cuban immigrants the right to vote? Isn’t their lack of democratic participation on the island one of the reasons they are given asylum in the US?
It’s simple. Newcomers do not agree with Rivera’s attitude toward Cuba, but they are likely to settle in his district! Polls by Florida International University have revealed that Cubans who immigrated after 1994 and those between 18-44 years old are against the embargo, favor dialogue with the Cuban government, and think all US-Americans should be free to travel.
The second bill, HR 2831, would forbid Cuban immigrants who have not yet attained citizenship from travelling to Cuba for any reason. Rule breakers would automatically lose their special status and be treated like any other immigrant, which could lead to denial of reentry or deportation in many cases.
New arrivals make up the majority of the more than 400,000 Cubans who return to the island each year. Many of them are helping family members back home to set up recently licensed private businesses. They do so not only by sending remittances, but also by delivering supplies and equipment necessary for these ventures that are not available to average Cubans on the island.
Why does Rivera want to hamper Cubans from becoming economically independent of the Cuban government? Again the answer is simple. Any economic development on the island provides relief to the people and thus lessens pressure on the Cuban government.
The original intent of the embargo was to destroy the economy and make the Cuban people so miserable that they would revolt. If Cubans start becoming prosperous, even of their own accord, the extreme right’s dream of violent insurrection toppling the Castro regime becomes less likely. It may seem astonishing that anyone still adheres to this line of reasoning after 50 years of failure.
Of course, Rivera does not admit that these are his reasons for proposing changes to the Cuban Adjustment Act.
Instead, in a brilliant bit of political jujitsu, Rivera has embraced the argument of the Cuban government and others who believe that the purpose of the Act is to lure people into life-risking journeys that provide publicity and support for the US narrative regarding the plight of Cubans.
Rivera argues that if Cubans can return to the island without fear, then they are not “refugees” and should not be given “asylum”. They should be treated like any immigrants.
He’s right, but his solution is nonsensical. Rivera’s “solution” is to force Cubans to behave like refugees in order to fit the law, instead of doing away with a law that does not fit reality.
Cuban immigrants can travel back to Cuba without fear, so therefore they are not refugees and should be treated just like any other arrivals.
Rivera wants his cake and to eat it too. He wants to maintain the perception that Cubans are ruthlessly persecuted, but he doesn’t want those who “escape” to be able to vote against him or to get in the way of his plans to incite a violent revolution.