How U.S. Immigration Policy Prolongs the Regime in Cuba

Parsing Immigration Policy, Episode 54

By Mark Krikorian and Phillip Linderman on May 19, 2022

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Listen to "How U.S. Immigration Policy Prolongs the Regime in Cuba" on Spreaker.


In this week’s episode of Parsing Immigration Policy, guest Phillip Linderman discusses the history of the Cuban migrant program and provides policy recommendations. Linderman, a retired State Department Foreign Service Officer, served in Trinidad, Chile, Cuba, and post-communist East Germany before returning to Washington, D.C. to work at the Organization of American States. During his time abroad, Linderman worked in the consular sector of the State Department, which was primarily charged with helping American citizens abroad and issuing visas and passports.

The Cuban migrant program began with the Mariel boatlift orchestrated by Fidel Castro in 1980, allowing over 100,000 Cubans to flee to the United States. Castro had long used this tactic to rid Cuba of those hostile to the regime and to clear out prisons and mental institutions. Castro returned to this strategy again in 1994, after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Clinton administration reached an agreement with the Castro government to grant Cubans at least 20,000 visas a year - an agreement that still stands today.

In his conversation with Mark Krikorian, the Center’s executive director and host of Parsing Immigration Policy, Linderman argues that this policy has allowed the regime to survive. Rather than fight the regime in Cuba, many disillusioned and anti-communist Cubans instead obtain visas to the United States. He contends that terminating this agreement would enable regime change in Cuba and promote democracy.


Mark Krikorian is the Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies.


Phillip Linderman is a retired State Department senior Foreign Service officer.


Terminate Cuba’s 20,000 Annual Quota of Migrants


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Intro Montage

Voices in the opening montage:

  • Sen. Barack Obama at a 2005 press conference.
  • Sen. John McCain in a 2010 election ad.
  • President Lyndon Johnson, upon signing the 1965 Immigration Act.
  • Booker T. Washington, reading in 1908 from his 1895 Atlanta Exposition speech.
  • Laraine Newman as a "Conehead" on SNL in 1977.
  • Hillary Clinton in a 2003 radio interview.
  • Cesar Chavez in a 1974 interview.
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaking to reporters in 2019.
  • Prof. George Borjas in a 2016 C-SPAN appearance.
  • Sen. Jeff Sessions in 2008 comments on the Senate floor.
  • Charlton Heston in "Planet of the Apes".