The Bush Administration never used the term “regime change” with regard to Cuba, but its intentions (“transition,” “hasten the end of the dictatorship,” etc.) were always clear enough. President Bush’s beefed-up sanctions backed up those intentions, but his maintenance of longstanding U.S. immigration policy toward Cubans went in the opposite direction, and was one of several factors that made me believe that his intentions were more rhetorical than real.
The reason is simple: our exceptional immigration policy toward Cubans tells them that if they want to come to the
The details of this policy, including the federal benefits, are explained in an excellent report (pdf) published last month by the Congressional Research Service. It gathers lots of useful data; for example, in fiscal year 2008, 49,500 Cubans became legal permanent residents, 4,100 were admitted as refugees after being processed at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, 11,278 were admitted after appearing without a U.S. visa at a port of entry (Laredo, Texas for the vast majority), 3,351 were apprehended by the Border Patrol, mostly in coastal areas, and 2,199 were interdicted at sea.