Saturday, January 14, 2017

Setting the record straight on the Cuban Adjustment Act and "Wet Foot Dry Foot" policy

Shutting the door on Cuban refugees and opening it to their oppressors

Closing the door on the victims of communism in Cuba 
Over the past eight years the Obama Administration has been making major concessions to the Castro regime with little in return or worse responding to blackmail. At the same time the human rights situation in Cuba has worsened, trade between the two countries has collapsed and there is a massive exodus of over a 100,000 Cubans.  The latest episode in this ongoing process is the further gutting of the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act and the chief beneficiary will be the Castro regime sadly one of the potential big losers is South Florida.

Past is prologue
However it is important to review recent history to understand the full significance of what is taking place and how terrible it is for both US national security interests and that of free Cubans. The Obama Administration claims to have opened a "new chapter" on Cuba, but in reality it is a reboot of the worst aspects of the Carter and Clinton Administration's Cuba policies that prolonged the life of the Castro dictatorship while creating humanitarian tragedies during both their Presidencies with Mariel (1980) and the Rafter Crisis (1994 - 1995).  The Cuban Adjustment Act was in effect from 1966, to address a previous migration crisis but there was not a constant exodus of Cubans. Under the Nixon, Reagan and Bush 41 and Bush 43 presidencies there was not a single Cuban migration crisis. This leads to the question if it is not the Cuban Adjustment Act what other factor could explain the reason for these different migration waves? Under Carter, Clinton and Obama there were overarching efforts to normalize relations, even at the expense of US national interests. Two possibilities that are not mutually exclusive emerge: 1) Cubans believe that the free world will no longer be in solidarity with their desire to be free and in despair they flee. and 2) The Castro regime believes that it can use migration as a weapon to extract concessions from a White House that they perceive as weak and vulnerable.

With regards to the Cuban Adjustment Act one needs to look closely at the events during the Clinton Administration and how they set up the latest chapter of the gutting of the Cuban Adjustment Act by the Obama Administration on January 12, 2017.

How the Clinton Administration began to undermine the Cuban Adjustment Act in 1994 
The first effort to gut the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act  was initiated by President Bill Clinton who on August 19, 1994 stopped bringing Cuban refugees picked up on the high seas to the United States and took them to improvised camps on the U.S. Guantanamo Naval Base. This was followed on May 2, 1995 with a further break in past practice when his Attorney General Janet Reno announced: "Effective immediately, Cuban migrants intercepted at sea, attempting to enter the United States or who enter Guantanamo illegally will be taken to Cuba." Never before had U.S. ships returned Cuban refugees to communist Cuba.  

This re-interpretation of the Cuban Adjustment Act in 1995 was done without consulting Congress, without changing the law and was the result of joint agreements between the United States and the Castro regime made public in a joint statement supposedly "to regularize further their migration relationship." This is how the highly irregular Wet Foot Dry Foot policy came into effect gutting the original intent of the Cuban Adjustment Act.  Before this day, the U.S. Coast Guard would rescue fleeing Cuban refugees who entered U.S. territorial waters and bring them to the United States. With the Wet Foot Dry Foot the U.S. Coast Guard began to to return those same fleeing Cubans to their captors. Six day later on May 8, 1995 a flashpoint of anger over the repatriations of Cuban refugees emerged with hundreds of Cuban exile shutting down the Port of Miami in protest over the arriving cruise ship Majesty of the Seas who had handed over Cuban refugees to the Coast Guard for "repatriation." The demonstrations would continue for weeks paralyzing highways and main intersections across Dade County, but "Wet Foot Dry Foot" continued.

How the Lottery benefits the Castro regime
But that was not all. As they say the devil was in the details. The agreement with the Castro dictatorship opened up a lottery for Cuban nationals between 18 and 55 years of age in which according to a 2009 report authored by Ruth Ellen Wasem, a specialist in immigration policy at the Congressional Research Service titled "Cuban Migration to the United States: Policy and Trends" they must answer "yes" to "two of the following three questions. Have you completed secondary school or a higher level of education? Do you have at least three years of work experience? Do you have any relatives residing in the United States?" If they win the lottery they must have a medical examination and are "given parole status with a visa that is good for six months." According to the above mentioned report by the Congressional Research Service: "Over the years, there have been reports of barriers the potential Cuban parolees face, such as exorbitantly priced medical exams, exit visa fees, and repercussions for family members who remain in Cuba."  Not stated is that the Castro regime could turn this lottery into a reward mechanism for Cubans loyal to the Castro regime while blocking those who are politically persecuted by the regime. Up to 20,000 Cubans a year can be granted visas through this lottery that has been in place since 1995.

Visas for Cubans during the Obama Presidency
The Obama Administration has made a point that now Cubans with visas who arrive in the United States will be able to enter and benefit from the Cuban Adjustment Act. The next question raised is who is being granted visas to come to the United States? The answer is troubling with regards to Cuba. The Obama Administration during its first term (August 4, 2011) announced a ban on visas for people who the State Department finds have been involved in human rights violations. Nevertheless, Juan O. Tamayo reported in the The Miami Herald on November 18, 2012 that human rights violators from Cuba are not only getting visas but residency in the United States: 
"Former Cuban provincial prisons chief Crescencio Marino Rivero made headlines over the past month amid allegations that he abused some prisoners and ordered guards to abuse others before he moved to Miami two years ago. But uncounted hundreds of other Cubans with nasty pasts are also living here, including State Security officers, snitches and collaborators, judges, policemen and members of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, the neighborhood watch groups."
The U.S. Embassy in Havana has denied visas to Cuban dissidents, such as poet Rafael Alcides, because since they are critical of the dictatorship they are viewed as a higher risk to stay in the United States than a loyal communist apparatchik. Therefore on one hand the victims of communism are less likely to find refuge in the United States while their oppressors get to retire in sunny Miami with great benefits. In 2013 Raul Castro's daughter, Mariela Castro, a regime apparatchik and ardent communist was granted a visa to the United States. This is not the Cuban Adjustment Act but the perversion of it by the Clinton and Obama Administrations that are well on their way to shutting the door on Cuban refugees but leaving it open to their oppressors.

Shutting the door on Cuban doctors who are victims of trafficking
An estimated 31,000 Cuban doctors are sent by the Castro regime on "international missions." Other Cubans, who are not doctors, have been sent abroad to work and provide hard currency for the Castro regime and are working in inhumane circumstances. Cuban doctors in Cuba make approximately $25 dollars a month in salary. In 2008 The Miami Herald reported that "more than 31,000 Cuban health workers -- most of them doctors -- who toil in 71 countries brought in $2.3 billion last year, ..., more than any other industry, including tourism. Most of them are paid $150 to $375 a month, a small percentage of the cash or trade benefits the Cuban government pockets in exchange for their work." To place it into perspective, North Koreans working abroad are making between $120 and $150.

Juan Alfonso, a Cuban doctor, now living and practicing medicine in Chile, was interviewed by the PanamPost on October 15, 2015 and explained why he had to flee his homeland, "I will tell you something: I would have liked to stay in Cuba. I left because I could barely afford to buy a single egg to eat a day." The New York Times is trying to spin that Cuban doctors are fleeing to the United States because of the Cuban Adjustment Act and a special immigration program. Perhaps they should talk to this Cuban doctor who can offer an alternative explanation:
 "I was told that during a meeting of the [Communist] Youth, an Olympic athlete stood up and said he thought doctors should work extra shifts for free. The whole world applauded, and the motion passed unanimously. There is no union to defend doctors in Cuba. Many of us would wake up around midnight from hunger pains, and no one ever gave us anything; maybe a slice of bread, at the most."
The Cuban Medical Professional Program was established on August 11, 2006 to provide Cubans healthcare professionals in a third country conscripted by the Castro regime the ability to enter the United States. 

How the Obama Administration continued to undermine the Cuban Adjustment Act in 2017
Once again, as President Clinton did in 1995, the Cuban Adjustment Act was altered by President Obama without consulting with Congress that passed the law, but in secret negotiations with Castro regime. The Joint Statement of the United States and Cuban governments, signed on January 12, 2017 with reference to migration not only further guts the Cuban Adjustment Act but ends the practice of granting refuge to Cuban healthcare professionals trafficked to third countries and exploited by the Castro regime.
"In this framework, the United States of America shall henceforth end the special parole policy for Cuban nationals who reach the territory of the United States (commonly referred to as the wet foot-dry foot policy), as well as the parole program for Cuban health care professionals in third countries. The United States shall henceforth apply to all Cuban nationals, consistent with its laws and international norms, the same migration procedures and standards that are applicable to nationals of other countries, as established in this Joint Statement."  
Now for the most part, only Cubans granted visas, will be able to apply for residency in the United States under the Cuban Adjustment Act. Unfortunately, based on the practices of the U.S. Embassy in Havana this means that many communist apparatchiks will be getting visas to the United States while the victims of the communist regime will find it more difficult to obtain visas the United States, much less apply for residency under the Cuban Adjustment Act. There is much cause to worry where this policy will lead but one thing is certain this has been underway for some time and already caused harm to this community and trends with this new policy will only make it worse.

This is both a shameful and harmful legacy.

The best way for friends of freedom in the incoming Administration to deal with it is to scrap both what the Clinton and Obama Administrations have  done to undermine the Cuban Adjustment Act, which is the law of the land and restore its original intent with a view towards looking out for both US national interests and the aspirations of Cubans seeking freedom while at the same time draining the swamp that has filled South Florida with human rights repressors, spies, and criminals working for the Castro regime. 

From the Archives:

The Miami Herald
Published: 05/08/95
Section: FRONT

Page: 1A



Hundreds of Cuban exiles turned Sunday into a day of protests, venting their wrath at the Clinton administration by blocking the road to the Port of Miami with trucks and sit-ins and scuffling briefly with police.

The demonstrations were a desperate gambit, a last-ditch effort to dissuade the government from plans to return to Cuba 13 rafters rescued by a cruise ship in the Caribbean.

"Where are our brothers?" demonstrators chanted, referring to the 13 rafters.

It was not clear if the cries of dismay were heard at the White House.

U.S. authorities remained tight-lipped about the rafters' fate. The Coast Guard, which took the rafters off the cruise ship Majesty of the Seas late Friday, said it was still awaiting instructions from Washington on where to take them.

There were many forms of protest Sunday.

Amid threats by exiles to use boats to shut off Government Cut, the only route in and out of Miami's port, the Coast Guard stepped up its presence in the channel, escorting departing cruise ships out to sea.
Some demonstrators had vowed to block the cut at 5:30 p.m. as the Majesty of the Seas headed back out on another weeklong cruise. But only two small motorboats flying Cuban flags waited at the mouth of the channel, and they never approached the massive ship. On the South Pointe pier, about 20 people waved flags and booed the passing liner.

A representative of the Archdiocese of Miami, the Rev. Francisco Santana, read a statement to reporters condemning the decision to repatriate Cubans. The statement was issued by Auxiliary Bishop Agustin Roman, long a champion of Cuban refugees and the archdiocese's highest-ranking Cuban exile priest.
And pilots for Brothers to the Rescue flew to within 20 miles of the coast of Cuba, trying but failing to locate the Coast Guard cutter carrying the rafters. The pilots had hoped to photograph the cutter if and when it turned over the 13 men to Cuban authorities.

The biggest and most visible action took place in the heart of downtown Miami, within sight of thousands of tourists.

Starting at 7 a.m., a crowd of as many as 500 people intermittently cut off access to the port -- where the Majesty of the Seas docked at dawn Sunday -- by blocking the road leading to it with vehicles and their own bodies. During the six-hour demonstration, they succeeded in shutting down the road several times for a total of about a half hour.

Dozens of Miami and Metro-Dade police officers were on the scene, and 10 people were detained. At least two were charged with failing to obey the directions of police officers and obstructing justice, but others were released without charges. Those arrested were later released without having to post bail.
Demonstrators collected money to help pay fines and towing charges.

At one point, demonstrators crashed through a metal barricade keeping them off the port road. There was brief struggle involving about 10 officers and 20 demonstrators. But in general there was little confrontation, and there were no injuries.

After the scuffle, demonstration leaders and Miami Police Assistant Chief Raul Martinez, a Cuban American, came to an agreement. The next two times the demonstrators blocked the street, the police allowed them through the barricades without resistance. On those two occasions, the demonstrators cleared the road voluntarily after about 10 minutes.

Miami Police Chief Donald H. Warshaw said his officers were getting ready for more demonstrations during the next several days if the rafters are returned to Cuba.

Leaders of Sunday's protest said they planned to meet today to plan further action.
A survey released by Spanish-language WLTV-Channel 23 showed the demonstrators' concerns were shared by many of Dade County's Hispanic adults. According to the three-day poll, two- thirds of them disagreed with the administration's decision to repatriate rafters.

But the poll also indicated Dade residents are sharply divided on the issue. Three-fourths of blacks and non-Hispanic whites support the new policy.

Under Clinton's toughened policy, negotiated in secret with the Cuban government, the 21,000 rafters held at the U.S. Navy Base at Guantanamo Bay will be granted entry into the United States, but all rafters picked up at sea will be repatriated.

Herald staff writers Elaine De Valle, Ana Menendez, David Hancock and Frances Robles contributed to this report.

JEFFERY A. SALTER / Herald Staff
CRIES OF DISMAY: Exiles angered over the new Cuba policy block a truck attempting to enter the Port of Miami, where the Majesty of the Seas docked Sunday. The demonstration lasted six hours.
JEFFERY A. SALTER / Herald Staff
© 1996 The Miami Herald.

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