End to favoritism for Cuban immigrants?

The Chicago Tribune’s editorial February 16 on U.S.- Cuba relations was big news – the newspaper had departed from the prevailing silence on how Cubans arrive in the United States. In fact, the Tribune called for getting rid of the Cuban Adjustment Act (CAA) of 1966 which provides immediate refugee status and the sure promise of citizenship for all Cubans setting foot on U.S. soil.

The editorial contrasted special beneficence extended to Cuban migrants with risks faced by 11 million migrants from other countries who arrived without authorizing documents. They face possible exploitation, deportation, separation from family, and imprisonment. That may change, however. For a mainstream voice like the Chicago Tribune to have taken up possible revision of a key aspect of the dysfunctional U.S. approach to Cuba has potential for prompting a revitalized opposition to these policies.

The editorial highlights obvious contradictions. Most Cubans in the United States say they arrived as economic refugees, or because family members were already there, not because of political persecution. That was the tale that once called forth and maintained the CAA. And new Cuban government regulations taking effect on January 14 allow any Cuban to leave Cuba anytime for any reason, as long as they have a visa issued by the country they are going to, if one is required.

Not only is the CAA obsolete, says the Tribune, but so too is the U.S. ban on U.S. citizens traveling to Cuba. With Cubans able now to travel freely, the heavy hand of restricting travel belongs exclusively to the United States. The Obama government did ease the preceding administration’s restriction on Cuban-Americans traveling to Cuba. But, asks the editorialist, what about other U.S. citizens?

If the editorial is any indication, the public may be open now to dealing with the glaring perversity of U.S migratory and travel policies. The editorial focuses on long waits for visas to enter the United States that migrants from every other country in the world have to endure. And once in the United States many of them have to live in fear. Even those dangers faced by Cuban migrants in crossing the Florida Straights may not loom as large as the Tribune indicates. In recent years, Cubans have been entering the United States from Mexico or other Latin American points.

Should the most intransigent defenders of the U.S. blockade machinery no longer be able to defend the CAA, its days may be numbered. Cuban American Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican with national political ambitions, is one of thedefenders, but in February, he told reporters, “I’m not sure we’re going to be able to avoid, as part of any comprehensive approach to immigration, a conversation about the Cuban Adjustment Act.It’s becoming increasingly difficult to justify it to my colleagues.”

According to the Tribune, “Cubans who want to come here for economic reasons should play by the same rules as economic immigrants from other countries.” If the CAA goes, it seems likely U.S. restrictions on its own citizens traveling to Cuba will be on shaky ground. So now would be the right time for U.S. advocates of decent, civilized relations with Cuba to make their demands known.

Now, crucially, decision-making on travel to Cuba can be joined with the larger campaign in the United States for fair, just immigration policies.

Similarly, remedying other U.S. problems in dealing with Cuba has the potential of contributing to wider U.S political processes. It’s a matter of U.S. democracy — the Cuba part of U.S. foreign policy was long ago farmed out to a rabid, self-interested bunch. And stopping the waste of taxpayer money is a time-honored ingredient of U.S. politics. So, let’s stop disposing of money in Cuba under the aegis of so-called “pro-democracy” initiatives, subversive in nature, that are operated by money-hungry private corporations and other schemers. And not least, surely in capitalist United States trade with Cuba has its lure. So, yes, the whole blockade should go.

Photo: Old Havana. CC.BY 2.0



W. T. Whitney Jr.
W. T. Whitney Jr.

W.T. Whitney Jr. is a political journalist whose focus is on Latin America, health care, and anti-racism. A Cuba solidarity activist, he formerly worked as a pediatrician, lives in rural Maine.