Cubans are Telling Us They’re Not Refugees, So Why are We Treating them Like they Are?

cuba_car_boat_rotator_680x450Cuban nationals are streaming across our border with Mexico in record numbers. Our policy toward Cuban citizens who set foot on U.S. soil is to treat them as presumptive refugees. They are allowed to enter and can gain permanent residency after just one year.

After decades of intermittent flows of Cuban migrants making the dangerous voyage across the Straits of Florida, most are now choosing to fly to Central America and make their way north by land or air. In El Paso, Texas, shelters, churches and local officials are gearing up to receive as many as 350 new Cuban arrivals each day. These Cuban migrants transit through Panama before landing in Ciudad Juarez, just across the border from El Paso.

The spike in Cuban migration has nothing to do with political conditions in Cuba, or even significant economic changes in that country. Rather, the motivating factor is fear that normalization of relations between the U.S. and Cuba might result in repeal of the Cuban Adjustment Act (CAA), under which Cuban migrants get preferential treatment from our immigration system.

“Now that diplomatic relations have improved, individuals are scared that they may cast off the [CAA] and in the event that they do, they’ll get stuck in a really oppressive nation,” says Melissa Lopez, a spokeswoman for a group that provides assistance to the migrants. That assessment is echoed by Marta Molina, a recent arrival from Cuba. “We want to make sure we are safe in the U.S. before it would be impossible or more difficult to get here.”

So, if the advocates for the migrants are telling us that they’re not refugees, and the Cuban migrants themselves are telling us that they’re not refugees, why do we continue to treat them like they are? Despite concern by Cubans who are openly exploiting the CAA that it might be repealed, there does not appear to be any meaningful effort to terminate the 50-year-old law.

In the meantime, more and more Cubans are taking us up on the open invitation to crash our borders because few people in Washington have the political courage to repeal a failed and outdated Cold War policy.

About Author


Ira joined the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in 1986 with experience as a journalist, professor of journalism, special assistant to Gov. Richard Lamm (Colorado), and press secretary of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. His columns have appeared in National Review, LA Times, NY Times, Washington Post, Newsweek, and more. He is an experienced TV and radio commentator.


  1. avatar

    Nothing substantial would ever happen with this current POS in the White House, or his near, if not criminal administration exists.

  2. avatar

    The answer is VOTES. Florida is the biggest swing state and Cubans vote in very large percentages. This outdated policy is very bad news for the average US citizen though.

    In January 2015 the South Florida Sun Sentinel ran a series called The Cuban Criminal Pipeline. Figures they compiled showed that Cuban born individuals were responsible for a staggeringly large number of crimes in both Florida and nationwide. In FL 4% of the entire state population is Cuban born, but they were involved in over 70% of both cargo theft and healthcare fraud in the state. Many of them skip back to Cuba with their riches where our good friends the Castro brothers refuse to extradite them.

    In October the same paper did a multipart series on the huge amount of welfare payments, 620 million per year, given to Cubans, many who came here and claimed refugee status. But in fact, many return to Cuba, the country they claim is persecuting them, and spend months at a time there while still receiving US welfare benefits.

    This April, the US Senate refused to vote on a bill that would have addressed the automatic refugee status of Cubans and ended many of these problems. Another example of our government officials refusing to do their job and protect the American taxpayer. Will Trump try and change this? Who knows. But we know the people in charge now will never do anything about it. So why all the big wonder in this country about why people are considering him? At least there’s a CHANCE things might change.

    • avatar

      Democrat Open Borders Immigration Policy is Long-term for Future Votes

      Republican do amnesty for cheap labor….both are evil. Did anyone say “One World Government 666”????

      • avatar

        That’s all these so called “free trade” pacts are, one world government. They will let foreign corporations sue us, including individual states, if our laws, like environmental, interfere with their “right” to make a profit. And the judges will not be US judges, but international panels.

        It’s already happening in other places. Phillip Morris is suing Uruguay because that country is supposedly lowering their profits by having strict anti smoking programs.

        • avatar

          not familiar with the issue but nit smoking programs if it serves to saves lives I am all for it….