Half a Century of Cuban Adjustment

By Kausha Luna, November 1, 2016

Tomorrow marks the 50th anniversary of the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act (CAA). A Cold War relic, the CAA and the "wet foot, dry foot" policy continue to function as pull factors for U.S.-bound Cuban illegal aliens.

In August, nine Latin American countries (Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, and Peru) addressed a letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Frustrated by the growing flow of Cuban migrants through the region, the signatories called for a review of U.S. immigration policies favoring the islanders. In their request, the signing Foreign Ministers explicitly identified the CAA and "wet foot, dry foot" policy as magnets for the "disorderly, irregular, and unsafe" flow of Cubans, who pass through numerous countries in order to reach the United States.

Here it should be reiterated that the CAA was intended to accommodate oppressed dissenters from Cuba's Communist government during the Cold War, political asylum seekers. However, the current flow is less likely to be comprised of genuine asylum seekers and more likely consists of economic migrants — a fact which is accentuated by the islander's failure to seek refuge in one of the safe countries they travel through and their demand for airlifts in order to bypass closed borders and continue northward. Nicaragua closed its border to the islanders in November of last year, while Costa Rica and Panama followed suit in the following months.

Panama's Foreign Minister has noted that the United States has not responded to their request review. This is not surprising as the Obama administration has repeatedly stated that it has no intentions to change immigration policies towards the Caribbean island.

During the first ten months of fiscal year 2016, the number of visa-less Cuban arrivals to the United States (46,635) surpassed all of FY 2015 (43,154). These numbers are particularly concerning given that, under the aforementioned policies, Cuban nationals are immediately given legal status in the United States and full access to welfare. Consequently, the arrival of Cuban illegal aliens is virtually unfettered. Per the description of a U.S. Border Patrol agent, they arrive at the port of entry and exclaim, "I'm here for Cuban Adjustment" and are then paroled into the United States.

As this Cold War holdover turns 50, we should consider the implications of an overly generous immigration policy.