Does Cuba Win or Lose with Obama’s New Immigration Policy?

By Fernando Ravsberg

Rafters during the immigration crisis of 1994.

HAVANA TIMES – For at least a week, Cuban emigrants without a US visa will be treated in the same way as the rest of the “illegals” who try to enter that country, according to the White House. For the first time in half a century, Washington is committed to returning them and Havana to accept all without exception.

The new bilateral migration agreement eliminates the policy of “Dry Feet – Wet Feet”, in force since 1995, after the rafters crisis that led to the flight of 40,000 islanders. Since that time Cubans who managed to tread United States soil were put on a fast track to permanent residence, while those caught at sea were returned to the island.

Diplomat Josefina Vidal, the chief Cuban negotiator with the United States, explained that “The Cuban Adjustment Act, when it was approved in 1966, empowered the Secretary of Justice to “adjust” the status of Cubans who are in USA. The policy of “Dry Feet – Wet Feet” of 1995 expanded its reach. It meant that any Cuban who reached US territory was immediately admitted. Now the number of people who can apply for benefits of the Adjustment Act has been greatly reduced.

Cubans will now only be able to immigrate to the US legally with the corresponding visa. Photo: Raquel Perez Diaz

“The privileges remain, what changes is the way in which they are applied,” added Gustavo Machin, deputy director of the North American desk of the Cuban Foreign Ministry. Thus, the validity of the Cuban Adjustment Act allows president-elect, Donald Trump, to return, if he desires, to the practice of granting residence automatically to all Cubans who arrive on US soil and even to those who navigate its territorial waters..

However, it is unlikely that Donald Trump will oppose a policy that tends to reduce the number of immigrants coming to the United States. His intention to minimize immigration has been ratified in almost every one of his speeches. He even counts on the support of Cuban-American congress people who, paradoxically, have been campaigning for a long time against the Adjustment Law and the privileges it grants to their compatriots.

Perhaps the greatest gain for the Cuban government from this new immigration agreement is that it also puts an end to the “express visas” program for Cuban doctors working on missions in third countries. According to the US Immigration and Citizenship Service, between 2006 and 2015, more than 8,000 Cuban health professionals came to the United States, availing themselves of this possibility. This was a tremendous loss for a country where the sale of medical services represents 70% of the economy’s income.

Josefina Vidal and Gustavo Machín speaking in Havana after a press conference. Photo: Raquel Perez Diaz

The great danger for Cuba is that Washington managed to put on the negotiating table the fate of almost 40,000 Cuban-origin criminals who are in the United States waiting for Cuba to accept their deportation. Some of them have spent long years in US prisons and could raise levels of social violence on the island in case they return. Already the Central American countries live something similar with the repatriated “Maras” from the USA, which have generated an uncontrollable security crisis.

Both Cuba and the US are presenting the agreement as a decisive step towards the normalization of migration between the two countries. However, in this issue, as in many others in bilateral relations, it will be necessary to wait to know the position of the new president of the United States. And it is still too early to know what he will do, although among his future staff there are several Cuban-Americans with anti-Castro pedigrees. Negotiations with Cuba will be in the hands of Jason Greenblatt, a Jewish lawyer from New York.

10 thoughts on “Does Cuba Win or Lose with Obama’s New Immigration Policy?

  • Yes, the families would like to see Posada Carriles punished. I was referring to the Castro regime, who are the only people in Cuba with the power to decide these things.

    The Democratic convention of 1924 included hundreds of Klansman as delegates.

    The KKK endorsed Al Gore for President in 2000.

  • Well we will have to agree to disagree re Trump being anti-immigrant.
    One thing I would suggest is certain.
    He has got a lot of mileage out of whipping up anti-immigrant sentiment.
    Who was the last President to have official KKK approval?

    I do however, agree that Hilary’s loss counts as a big failure on her part.

    I would also agree that Posada Carriles has surely got a lot of dirt to dish out.
    He could perhaps embarrass some people in high places.
    He’ll probably take it to his grave though.

    You mention that there’s nothing to be gained by trying him in Havana.
    I would suggest that the families of his many victims would perhaps disagree with you on that point.

  • To be clear: I detest Donald Trump, a full blown narcissist. But he married an immigrant. Twice ( Ivana and Melania ) So to suggest he hates immigrants is absurd. His Big Wall along the Mexican border will have, as he described it in typical Trump style, “a big, beautiful door” for allowing all the high quality immigrants in.

    It’s a standard Democrat talking point to conflate opposition to illegal immigration to being anti-immigrant. Sorry, not the same thing.

    The big Democratic loss referred to all of the other elections races they lost, in the Senate, House, and states. That Clinton lost to an inexperienced buffoon like Trump should be counted as a big failure, too.

    Back to the topic of Cuba:

    I don’t think the US will hand over Posada Carriles. He knows too much and undoubtedly has an “insurance policy” somewhere …if he gets extradited a package of incriminating documents gets dropped in the mailbox of the New York Times.

    Besides, the Castro regime benefits more by having Posada Carriles live out his days in the US, a convenient bogeyman. There’s nothing to be gained by trying him in Havana.

  • Don’t want to veer off too much towards a critique of Trump, but I think his comments clearly show him up as someone who feels himself to be an innately superior lifeform compared to those who emigrate to the USA.
    I don’t recall that The Democrats ‘lost big’. How can getting 2million more votes count as ‘losing big’.
    I would imagine that the old electoral college system may well be scrapped at some point. Doesn’t it date back to the 18th century??
    But surely the whole wide world is now aware that Trump is on his way to the White House thanks largely to his buddy, President Putin.

    Anyway back on to more Cuba related matters:
    You are right in that the details have not been reported as yet.
    Don’t know if they have even been finalised.
    But I would imagine that Posada Carriles will now live out his days surrounded by his supporters over there in Miami.
    He’s ex CIA.
    The USA wouldn’t be sending him to any other country to stand trial would they?

  • Trump is not anti-immigrant. He is opposed to illegal immigration. There is a significant difference between those two concepts and the failure of the Democratic Party to distinguish between them is one of the reasons they lost big in the last election.

    The details of the deal have not been reported, but there are suggestions it will include the US deporting Cuban criminals currently in US prisons. The deal did not include any specific agreement to send the fugitive cop-killer Joanne Chesimard back to the US, nor to send Luis Posada to Cuba.

  • Valid points indeed.
    Cuba has managed to take advantage of this hitherto law in order to let the USA take all sorts of people who are considered ‘undesirable’ for whatever reason/s.
    And the article does state that a return of large numbers of criminals may well be factored in.
    This could very well ‘bite’ as you say.
    You also say that the USA could increase visas which may well be the case.
    Although Trump’s apparent anti-immigrant stance could lessen this possibility?

  • The Castro regime has been demanding this for years. But it might come back to bite them in the ass. The steady flow of migration out of Cuba, which surged in the past 2 years, has served the regime well as a safety valve for bleeding off potential trouble-makers and the unemployed. Now that many Cubans will be forced to stay on the island rather than leave for the US, the Castro regime will have to face rising unemployment and discontent.

    Unmentioned in these reports is what the US State Department will do about the number of legal visas they will issue to Cubans. Will they increase the number of Cubans allowed to move to the US through regular immigration channels?

  • What I am hearing from the Island is concern over civil unrest with so many young people feeling desperate. This will but pressure on the octonagarians.

  • If you try to get to the USA from Haiti by crossing the Florida Straits, you don’t wanna get caught whether you have dry feet or wet feet.
    If you get caught, sorry folks – you’re going back to Haiti.
    There have never been any political points to be scored from enticing Haitians to risk the crossing and giving them residency in the country with the biggest economy in the world.
    This is surely another good move from President Obama.
    Although many would perhaps disagree, I would suggest it is on balance, a humanitarian move.

    What the new president does is anyone’s guess.
    Maybe he will grant U.S. residency to any female from anywhere as long as they allow him to grope them?

  • So there will no looking the other way

    as this administration does for others

    from Latin America…because too many Cuban refugees vote Republican

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