Over the past several months, my colleague Kausha Luna, and to a lesser extent I myself, have been watching and commenting on Cuban migration. Migrants who manage to leave the island by hook or crook for South or Central American nations — often under the guise of "turismo" — immediately abandon that pretense on arrival and begin making the trek northward to the United States.
Luna's most recent blog clearly documents the extraordinary amount of coddling they receive, often in the form of government benefits that they are entitled to immediately on arrival, even though they are presenting themselves at U.S. ports of entry with absolutely no documents.
And because of the Cuban Adjustment Act, they don't even have to make the pretense of seeking asylum from persecution, which a significant number would be unable to do because they are economic, not political, migrants and moreover are "children of the revolution" in Cuba in virtually every sense of the word. They don't intrinsically oppose the Castro regime or the leftist policies it represents; almost none of them have been vocal in their criticisms and, if they didn't figure they could do better for themselves here financially, they wouldn't come.
Yet there is nothing in the Cuban Adjustment Act that requires their admission, as I have noted before. Instead, they are welcomed with open arms by the thousands, representing their own distinctive surge at the border, by another little known and feckless administration policy called the Cuban Family Reunification Parole (CFRP) program. It is an abuse of the immigration parole statute, which on its face demands that parole only be granted on a case-by-case for clear humanitarian or national interest reasons.
What's more, the CFRP program is as misleading as has been the "DACA" program, which purports to be for illegal aliens "brought here as children through no fault of their own", but which was administered in such a loosey-goosey fashion that even gang members and other assorted criminals and misfits have availed themselves of the benefits. I don't suggest that Cuban gang members have used the program. (Are there any? I doubt it; the Cuban G-2 secret police wouldn't tolerate anything so organized except to the extent they could be manipulated.)
But there are certainly any number of economic opportunists in the mix. Not so long ago, the South Florida Sun Sentinel newspaper ran a revealing series on the astounding number of Cuban parolees who have arrived, signed up for welfare and other benefits, arranged to have their checks forwarded, and then quietly gone back to live the good life in Cuba, where those scarce U.S. dollars stretch so much further.
To their credit, Reps. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) and Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), in whose congressional backyards some of this has been taking place, have decided to do something about it and have introduced the CUBA Act.
The CUBA ("Correcting Unfair Benefits for Aliens") Act of 2016 would repeal the Cuban Adjustment Act (CAA), the anachronism at the heart of the abuse.
The bill would also repeal "Section 606 of title VI of division C of Public Law 104–208", apparently embedded in the law in a moment of political theater by Congress. That section forbids repeal of the CAA until "a determination by the President under section 203(c)(3) of the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (LIBERTAD) Act of 1996 (Public Law 104-114) that a democratically elected government in Cuba is in power."
Surely it occurred to the members of Congress who embedded the limitation that it could be whisked away by repeal as easily as the CAA itself. But given that the current president has already chosen to normalize relations with Cuba, demanding nothing in return, and is apparently indifferent to continuing repression on the island of those who do vocalize their dissent, Section 606 has become as anachronistic as the CAA itself.
In addition, the bill would forbid expenditure of government funds in pursuit of the ill-conceived CFRP program, which is what has opened the door to the Cubans in the most literal border entry sense by directing en masse grants of parole instead of exclusion notices to individuals who have no documentary right to enter the United States.
Cognizant of the staggering abuse of government benefit programs under way, the bill would forbid access to those programs or funds by CFRP-style entrants. The bill would also require the Social Security Office of the Inspector General to report to Congress within 90 days of enactment how it is enforcing the regulatory provision that withholds supplemental security income for months in which someone is outside of the United States. This was clearly placed into the bill as a means of forcing the government to initiate compliance with the regulation, which has been flouted by those Cuban entrants who sign up for the benefits and then go home to Cuba while milking those benefits, courtesy of the American taxpayer.
Note that the bill, while ending special benefits for Cubans, specifically exempts from repeal that portion of existing law relating to Haitian entrants. One supposes this is important to try to ensure that the bill isn't opposed by the Congressional Black Caucus, but leaving those provisions (as well as others relating to Nicaraguans) on the books flies in the face of the bill's title: correcting unfair benefits for aliens.
Note also that the "spend no money" proviso intended to kill the CFRP program may not work on a practical level, at least while this administration or a like-minded one is in power. Theoretically that proviso, when coupled with an end to the CAA, would force Cubans approaching a port of entry to claim asylum and be turned back to Mexico pending a "credible fear" interview on X date and time. Realistically, though, it can simply be got around by granting parole anyway, and claiming that the purpose of the parole is not family unification, but simply a continuation of the existing, extremely liberal practice of paroling in virtually anybody of any nationality who asks for asylum. It is also undermined by the fact that, as statistics have shown us, in recent years nearly everyone (92 percent) now hits that near-meaningless credible fear bar. So even if parole were withheld pending a decision from the interview, in they would go once the interviewing officer found that a credible fear of persecution existed.
Despite these limitations, I like the CUBA bill and think that it is overdue, but I also think the timing for its introduction may be inauspicious, to say the least. Florida is a key state in the presidential elections and neither party can afford to antagonize naturalized or first-generation Cuban Americans who may be inclined toward their candidate unless stirred up by overt support for such a bill. Whatever individual legislators may think about dumping the CAA, until after the election this bill isn't just DOA, it's likely DPTA (dead prior to arrival).