United States Cuba Policy & Business Blog

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

RePost: "David Rivera and the Cuban Adjustment Act Highlight the Schizophrenia in US Policy"

The following editorial from today's La Alborada demonstrates once more the reality of our insane policies with Cuba and the necessity for intelligent and rational reform.   It is all the more unfortunate that those who espouse the hardline are arrogant in their adherence to the delusions that are our status quo. Case in point is David Rivera, a Florida Republican Congressman who cut his political cloth exploiting the demented positions of our U.S. Cuba policies (solitary imposition of global sanctions; embargo; a fraudulent Terror nation designation, embargo, and travel restrictions on our own people) which have achieved nothing but much more suffering measured in divided families, loss of life-those who got on a raft but didn't make it to the U.S.,  and economic opportunity.  However, he does get rewarded for this with contributions to his political campaigns from a wealthy few and it appears we are supporting "freedom and human rights".  That perception is paramount even if it is far from reality.

As deluded as our policies may be with Cuba, regretfully there is a still a political payoff for supporting stupidity and failure.  The 26th Congressional District of Florida deserves much better than a cunning politician who will go so far to hurt his fellow and most vulnerable Cuban/American brethren (those who have no voice or vote)  to stay in office.  Will the Florida voters continue to send such an individual to the U.S. Congress?  We will find out in November.

"Schizophrenia: A mentality or approach characterized by inconsistent or contradictory elements."

La Alborada - June 5

The Cuban Adjustment Act (CAA), originally intended as a short-term destabilization program, was never expected to last for decades. Soon after going into effect, it was already causing a split personality in US policy towards Cuba. On one hand, the US sticks to its plan of strangling the Cuban economy in order to provoke massive unrest and ultimately an uprising. On the other hand, it grants residency to any Cuban who can make it here with dry feet. Cubans in search of a better income, more consumer goods, life without the blockade, or even the chance to become politicians in the richest country in the world reasonably choose the second option, as did the Mariel boaters and the later balseros. The CAA thus helps to ensure the failure of the blockade. 

Passed in 1966, it was intended to show that Cubans in the thousands were becoming political refugees, an image devised to mold world opinion about the then-new Cuban government and system. Although the proponents of the law declared that all Cubans arrivals were refugees, the law itself does not require any showing of refugee status, a special condition granted to no other nationality. Refugees from the friendly dictatorships of Somoza, Duvalier, or Stroessner, for example, had to prove their cases. In a later contradiction, US policy was changed in 1995 to limit refugee status to those who arrive on land; those found at sea are returned to Cuba, by definition not deserving of refugee status. 

The law applies to any native or citizen of Cuba who has been inspected and admitted or paroled into the United States after January 1, 1959 and has been physically present for at least one year. The original law called for two years of presence, but that was reduced to one year in 1976. Unlike people of other nationalities, Cubans are not made ineligible by becoming a public charge during that year, nor do they have to enter the country through ports of entry.

Today, any Cuban who makes use of the CAA is expected to declare political persecution as a reason for leaving; in South Florida, it's a social necessity. Not long ago, two young actors with Hollywood stars in their eyes chose to stay here after coming to receive an award. In their first media interviews they made it clear that their purpose, other than pursuing acting careers, was simply to have a better income and send some money to their families --just like Dominicans, Haitians, and Colombians. Within a week, they had retained a lawyer, who told them to declare themselves political refugees. And so they did, even though they were not persecuted in Cuba in any manner.

Rep. David Rivera did not benefit personally from the CAA. Born in New York, he has never been to Cuba, but he has made his political career by pushing the hard line against the island. He went from state to federal legislator on the strength of his demand that a book be banned from the Miami-Dade schools because, as one of a series of books on children from countries around the world, it portrayed Cuban children living normal lives, and thus was insufficiently critical of the Cuban government. Rivera did not seek to ban any other book in the series.

Rivera wants to stop the frequent-flyer phenomenon of Cubans in the US who visit their families on the island. He figures that the US government is subsidizing the Cuban economy, and wants to make the blockade as draconian as it was under Bush II, seeking to strengthen a failed policy that is undermined by the CAA.

He can't call for an end to the CAA, for that would be political suicide in Miami and a few other places. Instead, he proposes to limit travel by Cubans who have residency, but not citizenship: if you asked for "political asylum," he reasons, you can't be going back to visit. He's right, in a way, because none of those visitors is persecuted; it's the obvious contradiction set up by the CAA. The proposal, however, is hardly one of principle, for it would not apply to those with US citizenship. Residents wanting to visit would have to delay their travel plans, but they could do so lawfully soon enough by becoming citizens.

That would create an unintended result for Rivera. It's well established that recent arrivals are far more likely than the old-timers to support a normalization of relations. Their views don't yet count in elections, because they don't vote; but, prodded to become citizens so that they can travel, they will vote, and they will remember how Rivera and the hard-liners he represents did their best to keep them from seeing their families. South Florida voted for Barack Obama in the presidential elections because he promised to bring back family travel. Even the Cuban American National Foundation supported the move. Rivera is gambling that the hard-liners will vote otherwise this time, even if most of the people he claims to represent support family travel.

That his calculus is based on voter registration numbers is clear, because, along with family travel, Obama brought back people-to-people travel, which is hugely popular and still expanding. Rivera is not proposing to stop that program, because it is primarily a program for citizens mainly not of Cuban origin. He is not taking them on.

It's another strange episode in the history of a law that --probably in a worldwide first-- made dry-foot/wet-foot into an immigration standard. The CAA and the blockade continue to be the split personalities of US policy on Cuba, and a source of political careerism.

Here's a better approach to doing away with the nonsense: revoke the CAA, and then end the blockade."

We could not agree more...poetic justice for Mr. Rivera would be that in the future immigration reform that is to come in the next Administration and congressional session, Cubans are indeed equalized with the rest of immigrants like Haitians, Latin Americans, Chinese, and Africans, and the U.S. embargo on Cuba falls with the repeal or sunset of the disastrous Helms Burton Act.  

An end to the CAA, the U.S. Cuban embargo, American travel restrictions, and beginning normalization,  and the freedom of Alan Gross and the Cuban Five;  that would be a Cuban and American Dream Act.  And of Cuba and its political system, may the U.S. become a positive influence for change instead of being a negative interference.

Thanks to La Alborada (www.cubamer.org), which literally translates into The Dawn, for another eye opening and brain awakening on the present sick and flawed United States Cuba dynamic. - The Editor