Thursday, January 26, 2017

Obama's Cuba doctrine...

…and why President Trump should stick with it. An article of mine in The American Conservative.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Odds and ends

·      Cuba and the United States agreed on a framework for cooperation on law enforcement (terrorism, drugs, human trafficking, contraband, etc.), but did not release a text. Announcements here (U.S. and Cuba). Meanwhile, the Bergen Record editorializes that Trump should not reverse Obama’s policies but he should press hard for the return of fugitive Joann Chesimard.

·      A magnitude 4.5 quake shook southeastern Cuba,

·      Miami’s ABC affiliate WPLG opens a bureau in Cuba.

·      What it’s like to hijack a plane and live the rest of your life in Cuba.

·      AP on a fine effort by universities and libraries to preserve parish records that record births and other information about Cubans centuries ago, including the slave population. In Cuban parishes, you can see the old registries in separate books, one for blacks only.

Monday, January 16, 2017

More on the immigration action

·      What makes Cubans the chosen people of U.S. immigration policy is not just that they have been admitted without a visa, but that they also receive U.S. government benefits that are extended to no similarly situated immigrants of any other nationality. These benefits are described in this superb series from the Sun Sentinel, based on reporting from Florida and Cuba. The phenomenon of Cubans coming to the United States, qualifying for the benefits, and returning to Cuba to live off the benefits has surely grown since Cuba’s immigration laws changed and made back-and-forth travel much easier. By all means blame the beneficiaries for taking advantage of U.S. programs, but elected officials are abusing the taxpayer by legislating this gravy train in the first place. President Obama’s action last week is an indirect solution, but Congress would do well to make refugee benefits available to refugees only – as Senator Rubio and Congressman Curbelo, to their credit, propose.

·      Senator Rubio’s statement, once you get past the obligatory shots at President Obama, actually supports the action the President took last week. He says it’s important to be sure that potential refugees and asylees have an opportunity to have their claims heard, but he does not oppose the heart of Obama’s action, which is to return Cuban migrants who arrive without a visa. He refers to “abuse” of the system, which based on some of his past statements means Cubans who arrive, acquire residency, then travel to Cuba – just like immigrants from other countries who visit home, but in Rubio’s mind it’s an abuse because Cubans are supposed to act like exiles, as if they are refugees who fear returning to Cuba. In 2015, 1,527 Cubans were admitted to the United States with refugee status. Senator Rubio does oppose Obama’s action on the Cuban doctor program and sounds optimistic that Trump will reverse it.

·      If you’re wondering what the U.S.-Cuba joint statement (pdf) means when it refers to returning Cubans who came through the port of Mariel and others, it’s explained in the New York Times.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Chosen people no more

Ok fine, let’s get back to it.

The end of the wet foot-dry foot policy ends Cubans’ status as the chosen people of U.S. immigration policy.

Until yesterday, they were admitted when they show up at the border with no visa, put on a path to legal permanent residency, and given a package of free government benefits (Medicaid, food stamps, education assistance) that no other nationality gets.

If you like the idea of a fair and even-handed immigration policy – something that I as a fan of legal immigration think we should maintain – this change is long overdue. Cubans, few of whom come here as refugees, had no reason to receive that package of federal benefits that is intended for refugees. And Cubans who intend to immigrate will now have to do so through the processes and timetables that apply to everyone else.

Here’s the joint announcement of the two governments, the Obama statement, a Cuban foreign ministry press conference, and a Homeland Security fact sheet.

This is not the end of Cuban immigration, far from it. The U.S. commitment under the 1994/1995 immigration accords to issue 20,000 immigrant visas each year remains in effect, and we could do more. Cubans have the rare opportunity to apply for refugee status in the U.S. consulate in Havana (which amounts to a few hundred per year), they can apply elsewhere if they are outside Cuba, and they can seek asylum at the U.S. border.

Yesterday’s announcement may not even end all illegal immigration by Cubans. Yes, those who show up at the border will be returned. But there are other groups: those who arrive with visas and overstay, then seek legal permanent residency; or those Cubans who acquire Spanish citizenship, enter on a Spanish passport, then seek legal permanent residency. The Cuban Adjustment Act remains on the books and still allows the executive to “adjust” the status of Cubans who have been on U.S. soil for one year by giving them permanent residency. Yesterday’s announcement was silent on this question.

The Administration’s announcement drew a hoary condemnation from Senator Menendez (it will “tighten the noose the Castro regime continues to have around the neck of its own people”).

But it’s surprising that those who support the embargo as an instrument of pressure on the Cuban people and the Cuban government do not support this step. If your goal is to apply pressure to force political change, it makes no sense to maintain an open-door immigration policy that invites dissatisfied Cubans to get up and leave.

The new policy is good for U.S. border security, because it will stem a flow of tens of thousands of illegal migrants per year and likely free up enforcement resources. It is good for countries from Ecuador to Mexico that have had to care for these migrants. And inside Cuba, it certainly puts a greater onus on the government to press ahead with economic reforms – those on the books now, and perhaps new ones – that can create jobs for those who have been leaving Cuba in search of basic economic opportunities.

As for the incoming Trump Administration, its views on this are anyone’s guess. But candidate Trump did address the issue in an interview last February. When asked if the special treatment for Cuban migrants is justified, he responded: “I don’t think that’s fair. I mean, why would that be a fair thing? … You have people that have been in the system for years [waiting to immigrate to America], and it’s very unfair when people who just walk across the border, and you have other people that do it legally.”

Sounds like Obama did him a favor.