Miami Airport: The New Haven for Cuban Migrants

By Wilfredo Cancio Isla  (CafeFuerte)

MIA-display-300x215HAVANA TIMES – Miami International Airport (MIA) has become a haven for thousands of Cuban-born travellers who request asylum in the United States on a daily basis after landing on US soil and approaching an immigration officer.

According to figures made available to CafeFuerte by the US Customs and Border Protection Department (CBP), the number of Cubans arriving at the MIA with a family or immigrant visas had gone up to 56,410 as of the end of June. Of this total, some 9,700 are individuals holding a Spanish or other European passport who invoke the Cuban Adjustment Act (CAA) once inside the United States.

This could well be a conservative estimate, as calculations were made on the assumption that the vast majority of the 29,700 travellers who benefitted from a B1 or B2 visa or the more than 17,000 who received the documentation needed to emigrate legally until the third quarter of the 2014 fiscal year entered the United States through the MIA.

What’s certain is that a wave of “aerial refugees” is knocking on Miami’s doors, in addition to the thousands who arrive in the country after crossing the Mexican or Canadian borders or the “dry-footers” who manage to reach Florida’s coasts after maritime journeys.

A Daily Occurrence

“Every day, I get calls or news about Cubans who arrive at the Miami International Airport with a Spanish or Italian Passport and request political asylum,” immigration lawyer Willy Allen stated. “It’s a common phenomenon these days, because the authorities are processing Cubans with greater flexibility now.”

The phenomenon has become extremely common in the last three years because of the growing numbers of Cubans with Spanish nationality who request asylum under CAA provisions upon arrival at the Miami airport. People with passports from Spain or other EU member countries don’t require a visa to enter the United States, only a document or waiver secured through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), which came into effect in January of 2009.

More than 180,000 Cubans have become Spanish citizens under the Historic Memory Law (also known as the Grandchildren Law), which came into effect in December of 2008. Owing to Spain’s economic crisis and many people’s inability to pay for a ticket to Spain, many of so-called cubañoles (“Cuban-Spaniards”) have used their newly-acquired citizenship to travel and settle in the United States, skirting the visa requirements for Cubans.

Some travel to the United States from Spain, but a considerably large number of immigrants does so from the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands or a country in Central America. Direct flights to Miami from Havana are reserved only for those who travel with a Cuban passport or US citizens who have been specifically authorized to do so.

The Benefits to Refugees

Cuban-Spaniards can enter the United States, reside in the country for a year and then request a change in status under CAA provisions, but requesting political asylum has the added incentive of economic aid and medical benefits during the first months of adaptation to the country.

“It’s become routine. People arrive and very calmly tell you they want to invoke the Cuban Adjustment Act. The procedure is almost automatic,” said the immigration supervisor who agreed to offer statements to CafeFuerte, on condition that he remain anonymous.
Nevertheless, the source indicated that the granting of political asylum “is at the discretion of the immigration official.”

“I believe immigration isn’t being strict in Miami,” Allen affirmed. “I’ve seen cases of people who have tried to enter the country this way through other airports who have been detained or deported back to Spain.”

The figures on the entry of Cubans into the United States offered by the CBP authorities cover 121 border points, immigration stations and airports during the present fiscal year. The most porous area is the Mexican border, which has already registered the record figure of 14,000 Cuban refugees. The number of Cubans requesting asylum after arriving at airports has, however, also increased significantly.

The situation is beginning to worry officials, faced with a seemingly unstoppable exodus of Cubans towards the United States – including a considerable increase in the number of rafters during the summer.

11 thoughts on “Miami Airport: The New Haven for Cuban Migrants

  • New readers of this site and this Comments section, if you browse a little, you will see that some commentators have a clear political bias not only about Cuba’s recent history, but the issues of socialism vs capitalism. So it is not surprising that like the blind men and the elephant, each sees what is closest to them.

    One blindness that is commonly repeated and any American can easily check out, is the politics of benefits given to new arrivals. First compare treatment of Cubans with Haitians, or Mexicans. Then there is the special treatment and benefits the US government and many service agencies give to immigrants coming from communist or socialist countries that the US wishes to encourage. Cubans get special treatment. Why not Haitians?

    Try getting welfare, medicaid, subsidized housing, cash assistance if you are either an ordinary citizen or immigrant from a none targeted country. While there has been some improvement in access to subsidized medical care in some states under ACA, most services have been drastically cut in the last 30 years. As a social worker, I have to deal with these realities daily and the injustice and harm is huge and tragic. So yes, if you were a Vietnamese boat person and got to a service center or the US, you got lots of help for a few years. Similarly for Cambodians and Lao for a time, but most other countries, forget it!

    Then there are the right-wing political and some charitable organizations that also provide special assistance, but again it differs tremendously by country. So the bottom line is, immigrants have many motivations, but money or survival once here is crucial in most cases. To argue it is about freedom is simply a propaganda ploy. It is like saying “only in America is there freedom.” In many ways, there is far more freedom and benefits in some other countries, so hesitate before you buy the anti-socialist cool-aid. Life and politics are far more complicated than the haters would have you think.

  • You are a piece of work John. Carlyle MacDuff LIVED in a country which proclaimed itself to be socialist. His definition, whether or not you agree with it, is based on REALITY. Your definition is purely academic in that even you admit that socialism as you define it, has NEVER existed in the real world. At best, you should stop tilting at windmills trying to force the rest of the world to accept your crazy definition and instead give your utopic ideology another name. Just an idea but how about “nevergonnahappen-ism”. Que te parece?

  • First of all, Cubans receive no special government support that non-Cubans can’t apply for and receive. The special financial support you have heard about comes from private non-profit organizations set up by fellow Cubans. Most of it takes a few months to receive. Have you been to Brooklyn? Dominicans. The Bronx? Russians. San Francisco, where I live? Chinese. Los Angeles, Mexicans. There are densely populated immigrant communities all over the US. It’s what makes America great and not some boring whitebread country like…well, Canada. The Spanish being spoken in Miami is not only Cuban. It is also Dominican, Puerto Rican, Venezuelan and Mexican Spanish. In fact, Cubans are not the fastest growing Spanish-speaking population in Miami. Dominicans are. Lots of Haitians and Jamaicans too. The Cuban community remains the most politically organized and are the most established financially. Of course, new arrivals would take advantage of the job placement services, the scholarships, and the grocery vouchers. If you really like Cubans, you should visit Miami. It is a lot like Havana in many ways except the buildings are not falling down.

  • Addendum:
    My knowledge of the reality of communism and socialism commences back in 1940 when a Communist dictator Joseph Stalin made an agreement with a National Socialist dictator Adolph Hitler, to invade and divide a free democratic country Poland. In May 1945 my late father was one of the first two British officers to enter Vienna. He remained there as Head of Station for MI6 and we had an apartment in central Vienna during my Grammar school and University days. I saw the reality of the occupation in Vienna which was like Berlin divided into four sectors: French, British, Russian and American. I had the pleasure of meeting with British agents who regularly crossed the Iron Curtain to gain intelligence. Yes, these people were spies just as were the Cuban Five. The Russian rape of Vienna was fact, virtually every female over 14/15 was raped.
    At home in Britain, in mid 1945 a Socialist government was elected with Clement Attlee as Prime Minister. In September 1945 the Japanese capitulated following the dropping of the atomic bombs. It needed two, as they refused the approach to capitulate after the first one. Companies in Japan had used allied prisoners of war as slave labour contrary to the Geneva Convention. Although we were at peace, life under the Socialists grew worse as by 1947 they rationed both bread and potatoes. In 1948 I did a school exchange with a French boy from Paris. To my astonishment, the shops there were full of goods and there was no rationing whereas we in Britain were still rationed with points needed for clothes and shoes and we had to carry identity cards.
    In 1951 Winston Churchill became Prime Minister and took one week to end both food and clothes rationing with Churchill declaring that as we were a free people we could burn ration books and identity cards.
    I have been travelling back and forwards to Cuba for prolonged stays for several years being married to a Cuban. I have in consequence had the opportunity to study the reality of communism/socialism in depth.
    In the UK their exists a type of socialist described as Fabian. These people are not those with a background of hard physical work as labour in the mines or quarries of the UK where the development of workers rights took place. They are of would-be academic bent and will discuss endlessly varying theories about what is or what is not true socialism or true communism. There are similar types in other free democratic countries which allow free and open discussion and they take full advantage of that freedom, usually to berate their own politicians and to suggest that their particular theoretical form of socialism holds all the answers. There is one difficulty for them, that is that wisely no one pays any attention to their fulminating and ranting.
    I have seen both socialism and communism practised in reality. Both are bad. Bad for the countries which suffer them and bad for humanity where the rights of the individual ought to be protected.
    My vote has always been for freedom and the rights of the individual and I am fortunately immune to the blethering pedantic utterences of theoretical socialists.

  • What ever, Moses. Cubans work hard no matter where they live. And they don’t come to the US exclusively for the freebies, but only the US is giving away the free money and supporting the exodus to America’s shores from countries much further afield than Cuba as well. Adding to this, Miami is growing more to be like Little Cuba than Little Havana ever day…but I think that went completely over your head. You’re also simply wrong about the use of the English language in Little Cuba now…it’s almost exclusively a Spanish speaking city. One can go all day and never have to speak a word of English. Your attempts to paint me as a racist are ridiculous…me, a racist? Remember, I’m Canadian…we love everyone.

    “They do not come looking for a handout.” No, of course they don’t. That’s why almost 100% of new arrivals are taking advantage of it. But I suppose, by your assertion, the US is then forcing the Cuban Adjustment Act on them.

  • What an arrogant and insulting thing to say! Are you implying that Cubans, who, in many cases, risk their lives, and in most cases, leave family friends behind do so for less than a year’s worth of charity largely provided by non-profit private organizations? You really offend me on behalf of my Cuban family and friends. So you don’t sound like a jerk and maybe get punched in the nose by some Cuban who hears you say something this stupid, read this carefully: Cubans come to the US to work hard and to earn a living commensurate with their level of education and work effort. This is something the Castros will not let them do in Cuba. They do not come looking for a handout. Most Cubans are so proud that they reject these “freebies” as soon as they can get on their feet. They work two or three jobs if possible to do so. They also are motivated to send money back to Cuba to fill in the gap left by the Castros failed socialist economy. There is nowhere in Miami where you do not need to speak and read English at some point. The grocery stores sell food packaged in English. The traffic signs are in English. The public buildings and parks are marked in English. Even in ‘Little Havana’ not Little Cuba, you are still in the US. You have obviously never been to Miami and your racists views of Cuban immigrants are apparent.

  • There is money in the US because there is freedom. Yes, Cubans love that. Freedom and everything associated with it. Who wouldn’t?

  • For Carlyle:
    Since you are not acquainted with what socialism or communism are and are not I’ll reprint this just so you can ignore it again : willful ignorance of the philosophies meanings and the idiotic redefining of them
    being essential to your belief set.
    “One can debate the meaning of the term socialism”, Noam Chomsky noted in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, ” but if it means anything …
    READ THIS Carlyle ….IT MEANS THE CONTROL OF PRODUCTION BY THE WORKERS THEMSELVES , not owners and managers who rule them and control all decisions , whether in capitalist enterprises or an absolutist state ( like Cuba) .
    Bearing that consideration ( true to Marx) in mind and adding in the question of who controls the economic surplus, the U.S. Marxist economist , Richard Wolff reasonably describes the Soviet experiment as a form of state capitalism .
    Under the Soviet model, “hired workers” produced surpluses that were appropriated and distributed by state officials who functioned as employers .
    Thus Soviet industry was actually an example of state capitalism in its social structure .
    By calling itself socialist …a description of “Marxist Russia” (and “Communist Cuba”) that U.S. Cold Warriors and business propagandists eagerly embraced for obvious reasons ….the Soviet Union prompted the redefinition of (bottom-up , democratic) socialism to mean (totalitarian) state capitalism ”
    ( from an article by Paul Street at ZNet )
    Oh , and BTW, “democratic capitalism” is an oxymoron.
    Capitalism by definition is totalitarian. It is run from the top.
    I will not respond to replies on this but then you’re used to talking to yourself and won’t be able to resist. .

  • “There is something about freedom that trumps everything else. I don’t understand why pro-Castro supporters can’t see this.”

    Moses, give me a break. The main reason Cubans are coming to Miami especially, and the US at large, has very little to do with politics. It has more to do with your government’s Cuban adjustment act, the free medical, wellfare, etc. etc. etc. These people want to better their lives and the lives of their families. If the US was also a socialist state similar to Cuba, but still offering all of the freebies to Cubans upon arrival, they’d still be coming in droves. Cubans don’t care about politics…they’re just following the scent of money and the opportunity for financial betterment. Your statement should more accurately read… “There is something about ‘money’ that trumps everything else. Moses, I don’t know why you can’t see that.

    Cubans DO go to Equador, Spain, Mexico, Italy, etc., and they’re not bad places to live either. But only the US offers them all of the free perks. Miami is now ‘Little Cuba’…there are areas of Miami where only español is spoken all day and every day…just as in Cuba. Thanks to the US adjustment act, Cubans can very easily and very comfortably make a new life for themselves on the backs of American tax payers…and still be only 90+ miles away from friends and family. What a bargain! Many are rapidly jumping on board before someone puts a stop to the free gravy-train. The word is out… they’re giving away free money in America. Who wouldn’t want a piece of that action?

  • Commenters like Dan, Dani, Terry Downey, Walter Teague and the inimitable John Goodrich and a few others like them who seem to allow their anti-US government feelings to blind them to the sad reality that exists in Cuba should read this post at least two times. Hopefully, they will see that despite what the US may have done in Guatemala with the United Fruit Company or what the US may have done with Pinochet in Chile or in Mexico, Honduras, Panama and even what the US is accused of doing today in Venezuela, Cubans in Cuba are voting with their feet to leave Castro’s Cuba. They could easily go to Ecuador. They could go to Spain. They could go to Mexico. Spanish is spoken in these countries and immigration is fairly simple. Instead, they choose the United States. There is something about freedom that trumps everything else. I don’t understand why pro-Castro supporters can’t see this.

  • There is much criticism by Socialismo supporters in these columns of Havana Times of the US. It is portrayed as representing all that is evil. How strange it is that so many Cubans seek refuge there. Could it be that freedom is more attractive to humanity than repression?
    Freedom of expression, freedom of movement, freedom of the media, freedom of employment.
    It would be interesting to know whether those Cubans landing in the US with Spanish passports include any of those many hundreds of Castro regime described “dissidents” who following the intervention of different Popes, were enabled to leave the jails in which they were incarcerated in Cuba to go to Spain.
    In a world where the population of political and racial refugees is counted in millions, none seek refuge in Cuba, nor does the regime propose that they should. Where do those millions seek refuge? In the free democratic capitalist countries of the east. How many seek to go to Putin’s autocratic Russia, to China, to North Korea, to Vietnam, to Venezuela or to Cuba?
    When will those enamoured of communism/socialism recognize that humanity comprises individuals not automatons. That it is that individuality which produces initiative which in turn provides succour to the soul and food for the world. It is worthy of recall that George Orwell fought as a socialist in the Spanish Civil War, but later in maturity analysed the reality of socialism and dictatorship writing those wonderful books:
    Animal Farm and 1984.

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