What about the Cubans?

A comment in response to my blog about “Why Did They Come Now?” asked, What about Cuba” The answer is: Yes, the Cubans as a group get asylum after getting into the country illegally. And, that is an incentive for them to come illegally seeking greater opportunity, just like illegal aliens from other countries.

So, why a different policy for Cubans than for others? There may have been a reasonable humanitarian view that all arriving Cubans were political refugees back in 1966 when the Cuban Adjustment Act (CAA) was enacted in the aftermath of the Cuban revolution. But, even then, it was a mistake. Any law that exempts any large class of persons from the standard screening process under the immigration law that applies to all others opens a door to fraud and abuse by eliminating a careful case-by-case screening.

Of course there was persecution of persons who opposed the revolutionary Castro government, but that did not mean that all persons fleeing the country were persecuted. And, as U.S.-born children of Cubans and sometimes their parents now travel to Cuba as tourists, the hypocrisy of treating all Cuban newcomers as refugees is clear.

Why then are all arriving Cubans still given asylum a year after arrival? It’s politics. So many of Cuba’s wealthy elite fled to Miami during and immediately after the revolution that they formed a potent political force that especially resonated with national leaders who saw Cuba as a foot in the door of the Western Hemisphere by a Soviet client state (Kennedy-Johnson-Nixon) that today’s political leaders remain reluctant to change the status quo.

What about the “Wet-Foot-Dry-Foot” policy that dictates that those intercepted by the Coast Guard at sea are screened at sea and sent back to Cuba if they do not likely qualify as refugees? This policy is based on a 1995 Executive Order of President Clinton adopted to slow a growing surge of Cuban “rafters.” It succeeded in slowing the flow of rafters and has resulted in a smaller flow of illegal Cuban migrants coming by land (through Mexico for example) or directly from Cuba by smuggling operations. Clinton also accepted blackmailing by Cuba when he agreed to an annual minimum level of 20,000 immigrant admissions from Cuba in exchange for Castro’s pledge to crack down on departing rafters. To fill that minimum requirement, Clinton agreed to set up a separate lottery visa system for Cubans – another abuse of authority.

Even if the CAA were not repealed – as it should be – it could be rendered moot if the current administration simply started deporting arriving Cuban illegal aliens before the one-year anniversary of their arrival. It would simply have to begin screening them for a well-founded fear of persecution the same as it is doing for those intercepted at sea.

President Clinton’s actions in 1995 were an abuse of power – altering immigration law for a large class of people by executive action. But it is worth recognizing that the abuse could be undone simply by a similar corrective executive action.

About Author


Jack, who joined FAIR’s National Board of Advisors in 2017, is a retired U.S. diplomat with consular experience. He has testified before the U.S. Congress, U.S. Civil Rights Commission, and U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform and has authored studies of immigration issues. His national and international print, TV, and talk radio experience is extensive (including in Spanish).


  1. avatar

    I lived in South Florida(Miami) for 20 years. I truly think the Cuban Readjustment Act should be repealed. It is a SCAM and the Cubans in Miami know it. But congresspersons Ros -Leithen and Diaz Balart will not allow it. If it does not involve Cuba or Israel or Chavez/Maduro it is not an issue. That is why I left South Florida.

  2. avatar

    I am not in favor of illegal immigration, in the case of Cuba new arrivals, claiming that refugee status, do not believe either, other than they are looking for food, and opportunity to improve their lives. As far as the article written by Mr. Martin, I agree for the most part, but the Cuban issue goes back further than 1966, and 1995, you may want to research the “Platt Amendment” signed circa 1902, when the U.S. after kicking the Spaniards butt around the world, left Cuba as an independent Republic.

    • avatar

      I explained the policy but I never said I agree with it. Could you quote exactly where I said that? My exact words, not yours. I said “it’s all about votes”, which anyone with a brain would understand that the policy has nothing to do with real refugees.

  3. avatar

    The Cuban Adjustment act includes a self- replenishing fund loaned to immigrants. It has been re-paid.The Cubans, in general, ARE NOT: welfare users,illiterate,lazy,or Democrats.
    Even the poorer classes who have emigrated do tend to have a strong work ethic.
    Some became cocaine cowboys, but they built 50000 square foot estates providing employment and boosting the economy.

    • avatar
      John Winthrop on

      Cubans in Florida are Republicans without any money…….your facts do not hold…..I have met many Cubans in FL, Nebraska…..and they claim they are educated but are lied by their System who tells them so if you think they contribute and strong work ethics then Mexicans are supermen……..

      The fact is, about time they stop this charity/humanitarian favoritism….there are lots of other people that deserve a chance……no differently from the Cubans….they have no merit to receive a free green-card for something that happened years ago and should have stopped long time ago. And if you read history Castro sen the worst people back to Florida…you hardly see Cubans outside FL…………I do not see any doctors, engineers…etc..etc that are form Cuba or descendants from Cubans as many as other demographics in immigrants…..either you live in FL and have good friends from FL or you married a Cuban…..to have such an opinion……..really.

      You are completely blind and unfair, the Cubans are not different from the Mexicans with the difference or a green card and the fact the Mexicans have a stronger work ethic…..

      • avatar
        John Winthrop on

        The point is if Cubans get such a free pass so then everybody else should have the same chance else stop it….and have the merit to earn a green-card as per the System requirements. also for you info if you married a Cuban you get the green card…the chain effect…why? it should be no different from everybody else……

        If a Cuban will get the papers then compete with the same rules not favoritism..any longer…also Cubans get married and paid to get the papers to other people in these immigration scams……….

        • avatar
          John Winthrop on

          John Fleming, LAST, you comments are in no way an excuse to justify the Cubans being here or getting a free pass….anybody else, Mexicans, Europeans, etc etc can also contribute to the system if given the opportunity….the fact is FL has been already invaded by Cubans and nobody is dong anything at least FAIR is finally bringing this up and I hope this stops once and for all and they fix the system to be fair and not just fot eh Cubans……….

          By the way, as per a friend of mine from FL……there are two types of Cubans, the ones that came 10 years ago and their first generation..he basically says they are rude and were peasants in Cuba. No food and Castro has them in bad shape….etc etc their it goes your reality trying to convince people what any other demographics can do no differently but missing the point Jak is making.

          I just find it ironic everybody goes against the Mexicans, the good ones, but yet the Cubans, Somalis, and muslims coming here with a free pass and milking the system…not even looked at.

  4. avatar

    A lot come on visits and simply stay. Under wet foot/dry foot, almost all of those intercepted at sea are returned, and basically suffer no punishment in Cuba for leaving. Hard to believe that just about everyone intercepted offshore is not a refugee, but everyone who makes it to US soil is. Of course, it’s all about votes.

    • avatar
      arnlof sweigeir ft on

      A lot come and visits and simply stay?….wow..u really r out of touch…… Just about every Cuban that comes stays……. And Jack is completely correct…….

      • avatar

        No, they don’t. Because a lot of them have family back in Cuba, including children, so they know if they just stay it could be a long while before they saw those relatives again. So not all of them stay, but a very large percentage do. Got it now?

        • avatar
          John Winthrop on

          /…..you and your beliefs but facts……………..You are out of touch with reality again……….

          • avatar
            John Winthrop on

            So Leland what happened about who takes the jobs away from AMericans legally and now took a whole State…..