Loose Ends in President Trump’s Immigration Reforms

Many supporters of installing true immigration reform have faulted the Trump administration for not ending the DAPA amnesty that was created illegally by the Obama administration. But there are other reforms that also have not been acted on.

While Trump has indicated he intends to take back some of Obama’s actions normalizing diplomatic relations with Cuba, there has been no mention of the administration undoing special immigration provisions for Cubans put in place by the Clinton administration at the same time that the ‘wet-foot dry-foot’ policy was put in place by executive action. Clinton, at that time, agreed by executive action to accept a floor of 20,000 immigrant admissions of Cubans each year. This floor on the admission level does not exist for any other country and is a distortion of the overall immigration law.

Also with regard to Cubans, the United States has been allowing Cubans to apply for refugee status and permanent residence in the United States without ever leaving Cuba. That flies in the face of the international standard that a refugee is a person who has fled his country because of persecution or other factors. In part, this exceptional treatment for Cubans was adopted as a way to help meet the 20,000 floor on annual admissions.

Probably due to the in-country refugee processing for Cubans, The Obama administration instituted a similar program for Central Americans. Rather than having to get to the United States to make a claim for asylum, they could try for a refugee visa while still in their home country. That too was done by executive action.

The processing of refugees in their home country dates back well before the Clinton action for Cubans. A similar policy was already in place for Jews and other religious minorities attempting to leave the erstwhile USSR. That was different, however, because it was done by Congress, and has been perpetuated up to the present day despite evidence of significant fraud such as its use by members of the Russian mafia to enter the United States

While Congress should undo the refugee exception applied in Russia, the Trump administration should take action to terminate the exceptions for Cubans and Central Americans. The need to enact these reforms is not new, but the Obama administration turned a deaf ear to this need.

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).