Cuban Refugees Flocking to Texas Border
Cuban Refugees Flocking to Texas Border
by Julián Aguilar March 22, 2016
The same week President Obama makes the first trip to Cuba by an
American president in almost 90 years, The Rolling Stones will play a
free concert in Havana — the first open-air show there by a British rock
But changing times in the Communist country haven’t stopped tens of
thousands from fleeing the island and saying gimme shelter to American
immigration officials at Texas land ports.
From October 2015 to February 2016, more than 18,500 Cubans arrived at
Texas’ Laredo field office of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which
includes ports from Del Rio to Brownsville. If that trend continues, it
will shatter last year’s numbers for the same ports, when a record
28,371 crossed. During the 2015 fiscal year, more than 43,150 arrived at
the 20 CBP field offices in the United States that process immigrants.
More than half — 25,800 — arrived in only the first five months of the
current fiscal year.
The president’s visit to Cuba Monday was the latest step in his mission
announced in late 2014 to normalize relations with the Castro regime.
“I’ve come to Havana to extend the hand of friendship to
the Cuban people,” Obama said in a statement Monday. “I’m here to bury
the last vestige of the Cold War in the Americas and to forge a new era
of understanding to help improve the daily lives of the Cuban people.”
But many Cubans fear the so-called “improvement” will include
abolishing a long-standing U.S. policy that welcomes Cuban refugees who
arrive at ports of entry and allows them to seek legal permanent
residency status, known as a green card, after one year. The policy is
an amended version of the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act, which some
lawmakers call unfair and outdated.
In December, U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, said the policy should
be repealed. He’s since signed on to a House bill by U.S. Rep. Carlos
Curbelo, R-Fla., that would end the immediate eligibility of all Cubans
for the Refugee Assistance Program, instead limiting it
to fleeing persecution.
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, agreed with Cuellar and said the policy
is outdated and isn’t fair to immigrants from other countries who have
to wait much longer for legal status.
But U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who has made his father’s story of
fleeing Cuba a centerpiece of his campaign for the White House, said the
act should only be repealed when Cuba is a free country.
Asked about the refugee current surge in his home state and how Cuban
policy differs from the “amnesty” he says the Obama administration
willingly gives to millions of undocumented immigrants, a Cruz aide
offered up a quote Cruz gave in October 2015.
“The [Cuban Adjustment Act] is a recognition of the oppressive communist
regime in Cuba that engages in political repression, torture and
murder,” Cruz said then. “I look forward to the day when the Cuban
Adjustment Act is no longer necessary because a free Cuba will have
But Cruz was quick to pounce on Obama’s visit to Cuba, saying the trip
will only prop up the dictatorship.
“The White House keeps saying that this trip will chart a new course for
people-to-people relations, but all that Obama’s appeasement of the
Castro dictatorship has done so far is create a channel for inside deals
between large corporations and the Cuban military, which holds all the
keys to the island’s economy,” he said in an opinion piece published in
The state’s GOP leadership has also remained largely silent on the
latest surge. Asked about the influx in February, Gov. Greg Abbott’s
office declined comment but instead emailed a recording of remarks he
gave in the Rio Grande Valley when asked about the Cubans. Abbott said
then “challenges” existed because the federal government wasn’t doing
its job to secure the border and Texas would step up and fill in the gaps.
But Cubans arrive at inland ports and do not enter illegally like the
thousands of undocumented immigrants from Central America that have
poured into Texas since 2014. Abbott’s office didn’t respond on Monday
when asked to clarify his remarks.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who toured the border earlier this month, also
declined to comment, as did the office of House Speaker Joe Straus.
Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration
Reform, or FAIR, which takes a hard line on illegal immigration and also
seeks to limit legal migration, said the Cuban Adjustment Act should
have been repealed decades ago.
“Most of the migrants coming from Cuba are not coming because of
political repression, they are coming for economic reasons just like
most of the other migrants,” he said. “It’s perfectly understandable
from their perspective, but the consequences for American workers and
American taxpayers is significant.”
Source: Cuban Refugees Flocking to Texas Border | The Texas Tribune –