Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Thompson and Cuban migrants -- the real issue got lost

The flap over Senator Thompson’s remarks linking immigration from Cuba to the threat of terrorism has just about played itself out.

It gave Senator Clinton an opportunity to wax indignant at a candidates’ forum in Florida last weekend: “I was appalled when one of the people running for or about to run for the Republican nomination talked about Cuban refugees as potential terrorists.”

It gave Senator Thompson a chance to clarify his original statement by stating that Cuba should continue to be designated as a state sponsor of terrorism, and expressing solidarity with the Cuban American community and the contributions of Gloria Estefan and others to America.

Some didn’t buy it. At Babalu, this reader is one among many Cuban Americans who are still smarting:

“…stand him [Thompson] before an anti-immigrant crowd in South Carolina (where I believe the Confederate Flag still flies over the State Capitol), and he does not hesitate to lump all Cuban ‘immigrants’ together with other ‘terrorists’ sneaking suit case bombs into the country. It was plain old fashioned racist pandering of the worst kind. His attempt to clarify was less than satisfying.”

Others bought it, hook, line, and sinker, such as this blogger at 26th Parallel, who ignored the fact that Ana Belen Montes did not sneak across the Rio Grande – she is American by birth:

“I came to the conclusion that his comments weren’t directed at Cubans fleeing castro but at the spies such as Ana Belen Montes that we’ve come to know so well.”

What the flap has not done is lead to a discussion about U.S. policy toward Cuban migrants.

In his clarification, Senator Thompson says he is worried about Cuba sending “agents and provocateurs” who could “slip through” our “porous southern border.”

What the Senator misses is that Cubans, unlike people of any other nationality who arrive at the border without a visa, don’t have to “slip through.”

Every day of the week, they walk right in.

They present their Cuban passport at the border station and they are simply admitted – they are granted “parole,” which waives all the rules that would keep an illegal immigrant out, and has nothing to do with refugee or asylee status or any demonstration of a fear of persecution if returned to Cuba. The same thing applies to those who have no visa and reach our shores in boats.

If Fidel Castro wanted to infiltrate operatives into the United States, we could hardly design a better system for him.

Agree with it or not, it is a policy that responds entirely to humanitarian and/or electoral impulses, not to U.S. national security interests.

In other words, we could build a fence along the entire border, electrify it, and station a half million troops there – but as long as current policies toward Cuban migrants are maintained, the supposed danger against which Senator Thompson warned would remain.

So Senator Thompson raised a question that still has not been answered: If Cuba is a threat to U.S. national security, and if there is a risk that Cuba would infiltrate terrorists or intelligence agents posing as everyday Cuban migrants, how would he change U.S. immigration policies to address that threat?


Mambi_Watch said...

Great post.

Your question is bound to stump anyone who continues to support US policies towards Cuba, especially that which designates Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism.

Its an honest question that should be raised by all Americans.

Anonymous said...

That IS a very good point.

Henry Louis Gomez said...

Ana Belen Montes was Puerto Rican, but there have been others such as the WASP spy network that have come over either through "el bombo" or other methods. Besides any "Cubanologo" should know about the high speed human smuggling boats that are routinely reaching the shores of the US and offloading their cargo. Besides legit migrants who scrounged up the thousands of dollars to come, who else is coming with them? Obviously these vessels are entering Cuban territory with the knowledge of at least some Cuban officials.

Phil Peters said...

Henry, that is what I meant by "those who reach our shores in boats."

Those who come illegally, i.e. with no visa, whether by raft or by speedboat where their family pays a smuggler, are allowed in with no effective screening. Like those who present themselves at the Mexican border, they are in within hours.

If Sen. Thompson is worried about a security threat in that flow of migrants, you would think he would end this open-door policy, which is not required by the Cuban Adjustment Act.

Of course, if he did that, he would have a political problem that would not be fixed by more statements about Gloria Estefan.

But I really doubt that that's where he will end up.

Again, I recognize the humanitarian (and electoral) basis of our current policy toward Cuban migrants. But it's a pre-9/11 policy in a post-9/11 world. It can't be squared with a serious concern about security.

leftside said...

Cuba has never acted offesively against the US on our soil. Sure Cuba has intelligence folks here to tell them what is going on, but if Cuba ever had a reason to react "pre-emptively" those days are long past, and hopefully will not return.

Anonymous said...

What Thompson and others should be concerned about is the preferential treatment Cuban exiles still get. One of my aunts, who's in her 70s, decided to stay in the US after receiving a visa to visit her children in the US. After two years, she gets $600 for rent expenses and over $200 in food stamps. My mother, who worked in the US for over twenty years, gets a little less through social security. Is this fair? No wonder Cuban citizens will do anything to get here! Isn't this paradise for my aunt and others like her?