HAVANA TIMES, Jan 12 — Referring to the expected changes in immigration policy, a Cuban-American colleague wrote: “Not only is it absurd, but it is totally irresponsible to think that Cuba must open the doors to its borders wide open.” (1).
Certainly no country opens “its borders wide open,” but that’s not what’s being discussed today in Cuba. Rather, the discussion is around the right of citizens to enter and leave the island without undergoing lengthy, complicated, unnecessary and expensive procedures.
My colleague reminds us that “there is a war against Cuba” and he asserts that Washington maintains a high level of political hostility, prosecutes international financial transactions with the island and maintains the economic embargo.
But what I don’t understand is how you defend the country by requiring travelers to pay $150 USD for a letter of invitation to leave the country, which also means finding a foreigner to “take responsibility” for the Cuban abroad.
It’s as if Cuban citizens were children or mentally disabled, unable to fend for themselves. Also, since no one investigates the “inviter,” this poses the risk that the worst of criminals will end up as the “guardians” of the most honest Cubans.
President Raul Castro said that in the area of migration reforms he would move slowly and gradually, measuring the impact of each step. They tell me that he was referring to its effects on national security as well as on the “brain drain.”
Therefore I think that the “Letter of Invitation” will disappear very soon because it doesn’t provide much control and nor does it prevent the departure of professionals. Really, it only serves to generate dollars out of the irritation of citizens.
Something similar will happen with the duration of time people will be permitted to reside outside the country. It’s hard to believe that national security would be threatened if Cubans abroad spent more than 11 months away. This seems to be just another measure that to make money off of discomfort.
One would have to calculate the balance between what is collected and the political cost paid for it. I know people who started the immigration process for economic reasons and eventually left the island full of resentment against the government.
In the 1960s, the costs didn’t vary because those who left the country were economic and political enemies of the revolution. But now even the government acknowledges that people are emigrating to improve their standard of living.
Certainly the immigration issue can’t be seen outside of the confrontation with Washington. One needs only mention the operation that took 14,000 children from Cuba without their parents in the 60’s or the fact that US visas are now offered to Cuban doctors.
They attack where it hurts. It’s no coincidence that the White House offers such opportunities to doctors and not to bricklayers. Physicians who carry out service missions abroad are now the main source of income for the Cuban economy.
During external conflicts all politicians argue that it’s necessary to restrict civil liberties. This is not a not a new argument and nor is it one that’s exclusively Cuban – as is well demonstrated through the US Patriot Act signed into law in 2001.
But citizens should keep an eye out that the restrictions on civil rights are only the essential ones, preventing politicians tempted to take advantage of emergencies to resolve other problems of a domestic nature.
In the case of Cuba, there are also some immigration regulations that are not public, so Cubans never know whether the official who denied them their exit permit was acting within the law or was going around those laws currently in force.
My colleague’s article ends by saying that “Cuba will open the door to whoever it wants, whenever it wants and in the way it wants.” This is logical reasoning as long as when it refers to “Cuba” it means the Cuban nation as a whole.
There is no doubt that a country has the right to legally regulate migration according to its needs, but to speak of “Cuba” means that, in addition to the government and the authorities, the majority of its citizens support those measures.
I didn’t do a formal survey, but none of the Cubans I know is in agreement with the semi-secret immigration regulations, paying $400 USD for the world’s most convoluted paperwork or having to beg foreigners for a “Letter of Invitation.
An authorized translation by Havana Times (from the Spanish original) published by BBC Mundo.