Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Sen. Martinez' "notion"

Florida Senator Mel Martinez was on the Diane Rehm Show on Monday, and gave an interesting interview about his childhood in Cuba and other topics. He took a call from a listener who complained that as co-chair of the Administration’s Cuba commission, Martinez was responsible for the 2004 policy that limits family visits to once every three years, and allows visits to immediate family only. The Senator’s answer:

“The fact of the matter is that a difficult policy was instituted about family travel because, as you may know, a lot of people were coming from Cuba under the Cuban Adjustment Act, which allows Cubans, the only people in the world right now, I think, that can come to the United States, illegally essentially, and then be adjusted as legals just by the mere fact that they touch shore, the wet foot dry foot policy which I don’t frankly agree with. But the Cuban Adjustment Act also says that the reason why that they can do that is because of fear of persecution. Well, those same people who were coming in recent days and recent years were returning to Cuba repeatedly, and so if you arrive and say. “Please harbor me here because if I return to Cuba I have a reasonable fear of being persecuted,” I’m not going to be treated, the Cuban government is going to do something to me. But then in a matter of few months you go back and forth travel back and forth constantly, as so many people are doing, it really makes a sham out of that whole notion.”

Well, it certainly would make a sham of that “notion,” if indeed it existed in the law. But it doesn’t.

In fact, the Cuban Adjustment Act doesn’t even contain the word “persecution.”

By using the phrase “reasonable fear of being persecuted,” Senator Martinez implies that Cubans who come to America are refugees, because that’s what you have to demonstrate to get refugee status. But very few are: 2,922 last year, and 3,143 in 2006. (The only sense in which Cuban immigrants are all refugees is that they are all eligible for benefits that the U.S. government extends to refugees.)

The idea that Cubans who travel to Cuba are breaking a pledge they made to gain entry, is unfounded. When Cubans come without visas, all they need to do to gain entry is to say they are Cuban. Then they are admitted (“paroled”) not because the law requires it, but because U.S. Administrations have decided they want to. The Cuban Adjustment Act only comes into play a year later, when their status is adjusted.

Senator Martinez isn’t the first to use this bottom-of-the-barrel argument. Setting aside its total inaccuracy, it’s beyond me why he and others find it politically compelling. When the Administration’s 2004 family sanctions were announced, the argument was that the travel and remittance restrictions would cut Cuba’s hard currency flows.

I guess that one wore out.

Or maybe it’s hard to look a Cuban American in the eye and say that even though Cuba’s economy is growing, and Chavez is delivering tons of oil to Havana, and other countries are providing aid and credits, it’s all on you, pal – we had to stop you from sending money to your aunt because we’re hastening the end of the dictatorship, and the money you send her will keep Castro in power.


Anonymous said...

sorry Peters ain't buying it. So the CAA had nothing to do with Cuba being a communist dictatorship that was causing people to flee? So it was just decided to pass the law because Cuba was just there and some congressman felt it would be a cool thing to do to pick out Cuba out of all the countries in the hemisphere to give this special privilege to? Maybe the point was so OBVIOUS in the mid-60s that NOBODY thought you had to S-P-E-L-L I-T O-U-T in the law. But then again maybe they underestimated how dense some future analysts were going to be about its application.

Phil Peters said...

The point of that law, if you look it up, was to take care of the many thousands of Cubans who were here without status in the early 1960’s. By 1966 it was clear that the initial assumption – that Fidel would fall and all would return – was not going to work out. Under our laws at the time, the only way to adjust status was to leave the country and go to a U.S. consulate. So the act was a practical and humane solution to that problem. Again, you can look it up. My point was not about immigration policy, it was about a make-believe reading of that law to make an argument against family visits. If you prefer not to look it up and you feel better right where you are, be my guest.

Anonymous said...

ok, we'll toss you a crumb Peters. Martinez's mistake was mentioning the CAA and not the overall decades-old special immigration POLICY too -- for which the CAA serves as the foundation. we'll send him a note to update his talking points.

Anonymous said...

Let me visit my mom.... I am anti-castro, but don't fear persecution, like most of the Cubanos, I know here.

We didn't come here on wet foot dry foot, some came on marriage visas, some through university scholarships, others through family who got us here through other types of visas.

we have right to go visit our family in Cuba... Again, the clear majority of CAs here since teh 1990s (and probably 80s) don't fear cuba at all, even though we are anti-castro.

its silly USA acting like Cuba... Martinez just says that b/c he has NO family in cuba. easy for him and the facist babalu types.

Alex said...

Laws aren't "OBVIOUS" Anon, they have to spell out very clearly what their purpose is. Nor is Martinez making a mistake, he knows very well what CAA is and when it applies.

Anonymous said...

sorry amigo little late...Peters got the only crumb

Anonymous said...

why continuing asking for visit family in cuba.why you don't file i-130 and bringing overhere? in that way you rescue the whole family and they can enyoy this different life overhere? if you do that you will have all of them here happy , free and making a new life and best of all you will be showing your love for them.otherwise you show them only that you live better than them.

Anonymous said...

For almost 50 years we have tried isolation of Cuba with NO results! Isn't it time to change. The definition of insanity is repeating the same thing and expecting different results. But then again, ask Mr. McCain. Doesn't his wife's beer distributorship do business with Cuba? This is the "doble moral" of the republicans and their "secuaces"

Anonymous said...

yeah that's right morons the problem is the US not the castro regime

Unknown said...

Phil, congratulations. You really nailed this one. I have never seen the policy so well explained.

Henry Louis Gomez said...

Phil, you really are dishonest. Why isn't there a Mexican adjustment act? Why isn't there a Guatemalan adjustment act?

You know that the reason is because of a special circumstance call the Castro dictatorship.

While the Cuban Adjustment Act doesn't contain language about persecution, it exists because of persecution.

You know that old debate about the spirit vs. the letter of the law?

I guess not.

Whatever. Say hi to Sherritt for us.