Dual Citizenship and Cuban Immigration Reform

Haroldo Dilla Alfonso*


HAVANA TIMES — The Cuban political class has always taken emigration seriously, just as it has lent itself to as many uses as have suited them.

In some cases it has been used to frighten the public with the “Plattist” bogyman and exacerbate nationalist tensions, always receiving the support of a minority of extremist emigrants.

In other cases it has been used to pay back bills, through asking for remittances and demanding astronomical consular fees. It has even been used by a segment of partisans — as extreme as the first — those who are called “patriots,” to clean their image before the world and hide their ever critical and hostile positions against Cuban immigrants.

I don’t think that the general/president or his staff has understood one basic sociological fact: Cuba is a transnational society, since 15-20 percent of its population — the most dynamic part — lives abroad. Therefore, it’s not possible to govern the island without considering the rights of its emigrants.

Currently, as part of his “updating,” Raul Castro has declared — and his cronies have repeated this to the point of contracting laryngitis — that they aim is to reform the immigration system. But as is usual for an authoritarian system, no one knows in what direction they are going to do this, and there have been no public consultations.

It’s not a matter of sensitivity towards compatriots

So, we’re all at the mercy of meager goodwill of the Cuban political elite.

Obviously the announced immigration reform isn’t an issue that sails on the political vacuum, nor does it rest on altruistic considerations. Actually, the interest in emigration on the part of Cuba’s authorities is not based on any special sensitivity to the fate of their compatriots.

They continue to care little about the suffering of a family that is divided or how doubly tragic it is in the case of the death of a distant mother who one cannot visit; whenever this intensified pain always serves to shore up governance.

Although a facelift is always convenient, I don’t think the main purpose of this move is an improved public image.

The challenge now is to move the chips around to increase the use of money from the emigrants for an economic take-off and to lubricate the bourgeois conversion of the elite themselves and their heirs.

However there’s no consensus among the elite about how many chips you have to move to make sure of emigrants contribution to the island’s economic recovery.

Such a contribution would be very helpful in any circumstance — as it has been worldwide in other cultures — but particularly in an economy in chronic crisis, made more pressing by the drying up of Venezuelan subsidies and oil that isn’t appearing.

For Cubans living on the island the scenario seems clearer, since the repressive web is so tangled that it’s possible to make numerous partial concessions without advancing, fundamentally, in achieving citizens’ rights to free travel.

Let’s say that they can lower fees, eliminate some of the cumbersome steps and remove prohibitions — all of which are positive — without Cubans on the island truly achieving the possession of their rights.

What the government is going to win with that measure is some inflamed applause from the cacophonous minstrels of “orderly transition.”

Virtually stateless people

But everything seems to be more confusing for the emigrants. Here they too can take partial steps — always positive, but insufficient — such as lifting bans, lowering fees and lengthening the duration of stays of visiting emigrants.

But in the end there will still remain, and be very visible, the crucial issue of emigrants: their virtual conversion into a stateless people stemming from the expropriation of their rights as citizens, including their right to reside in the place where they were born.

An example of how confusing the scenario is and how serious its results could be is the issue of dual nationality/citizenship. Recognition or at least tolerance of multi-nationality is the sign of the times worldwide. In fact, a high percentage of Cuban emigrants have another nationality in addition to their Cuban one.

The current constitution of Cuba does not recognize dual nationality, but the government has never endeavored to operate in that direction, either because it’s something difficult to do or because it’s cost effective to have hundreds of thousands of Cubans paying high consular fees every two years.

On the contrary, the government requires immigrants to carry a Cuban passport even if they have another nationality and they don’t wish to retain their Cuban one.

Without a doubt it should be a right of Cubans who want to give up their nationality to be able to do so and enter the country with the passports of their new nation.

But those who don’t want to give up their nationality should also have the right to maintain it and enjoy rights as overseas citizens. With regard to them, if the government were to maintain its reluctance to recognizing dual citizenship, and if it were to decide to effectively operate against this situation in which hundreds of thousands of emigrants find themselves, we would be in the presence of a ruthless expropriation of national rights.

Although the Cuban government has us accustomed to almost everything concerning matters of inconsideration and expropriations, I think such a phenomenon would be very costly not only for emigrants, but for the entire nation.

In the end, as I said earlier, we are a transnational society consisting of islanders and immigrants – despite our insularity.

(*) Havana Times translation of the original published by Cubaencuentro.com


4 thoughts on “Dual Citizenship and Cuban Immigration Reform

  • No kidding…They rob more to the degree that emigration is “economic.” That is repeating the line of the Cuban government. The Cuban economy is tremendously screwed up due to crazy political decisions, because over there politics rule over the economy (from the “Manual of the Fundamentals of Stalinist Economics”). Therefore all Cuban immigrants are political refugees, since politics is what screwed everything up: the family, the economy, politics and even life.

  • Immigration reform is just a mirage, they began the rumors (once again) as they do when they aren’t completely certain how to act, and they fill it in with a little speech for the occasion using some overblown language. However nobody knows better than they do that those speeches don’t have the same impact anymore. Any such “reform” was the “filling” or “substance” of their little speeches back then. They are wrong big-time because people now are taking it very seriously. They built up their hope and wielded it amid the daily frustrations.

    But poor governance has now realized its blunder. The general in power, who was sold to us by using the bruised term of “human,” had no idea of the quicksand he was getting into.

    Emigration has only been a depersonalized pipe dream that has served them as another source of profitable income in addition to another enemy to demonize; they failed to foresee the emotional impact that the possibility of serious reform would have on people.

    Our people know, with their own intuition as people, that true immigration changes presuppose a radical change in the system, the change we all hope for, the change that is unacceptable to them – since they want to tell lies and dine on fish…

    Now they are dragging their feet on the grounds of the complexity of the issue, demonstrating the falseness of their intentions. It is known that in Cuba what will be done is done, and that’s it.

    The chronicle of the announced reform will be a very short one to tell in the future. There will not be such and such a caricature for filling out the form.

    I’m dying of curiosity to see what they come up with; you have to at least give them the credit for their originality. They will surprise us, I have no doubt.

  • To end the embargo would require Congress to rescind an action taken by a previous Congress. This action has set stipulations which, heretofore, Cuba has not even come close to meeting. Therefore, ending the embargo would require Congress to reverse itself leaving long-standing conservative members open to political attack from within their most conservative ranks and liberal members vulnerable to moderates. This is a tremendous political risk to take for even the most noble of causes. A congressmember voting to remove the 52-year old embargo against Communist Cuba, however ineffective, without any compensating advances in Cuba toward a more politically democratic society and with tangible freedoms for the Cuban people is political suicide. You might as well hand the office keys over to the Tea Party member. What a field day Rush Limbaugh would have with that vote. Simply put, it ain’t gonna happen without a dead Castro or free and open elections. That’s political reality folks.

  • I think the sanctimonious pollitical apparatus in Cuba has for its own selfish purposes manipulated an abusive governance. It is pathetic how sanctimonious they are and hang billboards with pictures and propaganda slogans as if they were a religion. They have total disregard for the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights to which they are a signature and a member. Article 13 of the UDHR reads:

    “1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
    (2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.”

    I also wish that the US government would wake up and stop listening to those Miami Cuban fascists and end the idiotic embargo and realize how this only helps the Castro’s and their corrupt apparatus. Dictators and Facists love enemies and to pretend that they are righteous in their warped endeavors. In the meantime, over 11 million people suffer without freedom and access to basic goods and services such as modern medicines. Castro could not exist for long without an embargo. The facists have no influence – except their money – without their cause and without Castro.

    I dream of a new intellectual political infrastructure and that new leadership will emerge after this era, which cannot happen too soon. I dream that the new leadership will quickly move towards democracy and introduce sound economic policies that benefit people and not tax them – where people can own their property and their intellectual capital – where the rights of man are paramount – and a society in Cuba Where those good people can participate in the global economy unfettered by state hindrance. That political system does not have a clue on how to stimulate growth and has not learned any lessons from history. It is very sad and for those that care – it is very disturbing and frustrating to watch as these selfish people on either side of the Straits starve and neglect the patient.

    There is no time for rationalizing any of it. It is over soon and good riddance to the facists and the communists.

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