In the wake of the violent Brussels’ terrorist attack, many politicos thought the optics of the first family’s visit to Cuba and Argentina looked wrong. President Obama and his family were caught on camera attending a baseball game, photo-bombing Che Guevara and tango dancing in Argentina. The purpose of the historic visit, the first presidential visit in 60 years, was to thaw the communist Castro Brothers chilly relationship with the US and open the island nation to US business and tourism.
At a joint press conference with Cuban President Raul Castro, Obama’s attempt to win over the communist leader fell flat. “As you indicated the road will not be easy, fortunately we don’t have to swim with sharks to achieve the goals you and I have set fourth,” Obama quipped.
But in a letter to President Obama, Fidel Castro dismissed Obama’s words as ‘honey-coated’ and reminded Cubans of the many attempts by the US government to overthrow and weaken its communist government.
Despite the chilly relationship, last year more than 51,000 Cubans came to America. Sixty-eight percent flew to a Central American country or Mexico under the guise of tourism and made their way to the Mexican border at Laredo, Texas. Once in the border city, the Cubans walked across the international bridge, presented their passports and claimed to be refugees.
Under the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act or “wet foot dry foot” crossing into the US is easy and lucrative for the self-proclaimed refugees.
Some of those “lucrative” benefits include:
• Immediate eligibility for welfare
• Food stamps
• Supplemental Security Income or SSI
• Cash assistance for impoverished seniors and disabled younger people
• Job training
• Language classes
• Subsidized child care
Jessica Vaughan of the Center for Immigration Studies described the program “As long as they can establish they are Cuban, they are released into the United States and immediately have access to refugee resettlement grants and welfare benefits. They get for starters $1,800 resettlement grant, they are allowed to get food stamps, temporary aid to needy families, they get job training, language classes, subsidized child care, health benefits.” (watch entire interview here)
All other “legal” immigrants are barred from collecting aid for their first five years. Plus, Cuban defectors who make it to the US can apply for a green card after one year. The generous Cuban benefits and perks are not sitting well with some lawmakers.
“We are seeing an influx of Cubans at the Texas-Mexico border who are immediately admitted to this country and have an extremely fast pathway to citizenship” Congressman Blake Farenthol (R-TX) said in a statement. “With President Obama restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba, the immigration preferential treatment given to Cubans … no longer makes sense.”
Fellow Texas lawmaker Democrat Henry Cuellar (D-TX) pointed out the 1966 Act is outdated and needs to be changed. The Texans see thousands of illegal immigrants cross into their town. “You want to get to Mexico and then come through Laredo and that’s the port, for some reason Laredo has become the new port of entry for Cubans that used to come through (sic) the water,” Cuellar argued. “The continued number of Cubans are coming to the United States where they get preferential treatment under that law…In my opinion it should be revisited and changed because why are we giving preference to Cubans with all do respect when we get Mexicans and Central Americans and anybody else we get them and we deport them.”
Just like the huge “Wilkcommen” signs in Germany that greeted the refugees that fled the Middle East violence, a Laredo nonprofit has brazenly placed a large banner that displays “Cubano En Liberdad” as the first sign Cubans see when they enter the US. The nonprofit is owned by a Cuban refugee and offers advice and guidance to Cuban refugees through the vast benefits lawfully available to Cubans.
The newest border surge is not only widely known by Cubans, but the Obama administration’s policy aptly named the program the Cuban Family Reunification Parole (CFRP). Dan Cadman, of the Center of Immigration Studies said, “the CFRP program is as misleading as has been the DACA (Dreamer policy) program, which purports to be for illegal aliens ‘brought here as children through no fault of their own,’ but which was administered in such a loosey-goosey fashion that even gang members and other assorted criminals and misfits have availed themselves of the benefits.”
This week lawmakers Farenthol and Cuellar decided to do something about it and introduced the CUBA Act. The CUBA (“Correcting Unfair Benefits for Aliens”) Act of 2016 would repeal the heart of the program that leads to benefit abuse.
“The continued number of Cubans coming into the United States where they get preferential treatment under that law,” Cuellar told KGNS.
The bill would prohibit immediate government funds that have become the magnate Cubans used to leave their native island and live off the US taxpayer. The mainstay of the original Act was to free Cubans from communism and political asylum. But the new US relationship all but ends that need and if Cubans find themselves the target of their government, they can apply for asylum like any other refugee.
In fact, using government data, a Florida newspaper said that nine out of 10 foreigners getting refugee services in Florida are Cuban.
A Sun Sentinel investigation found taxpayers in Florida spend more than $680 million every year for Cubans and found evidence that suggested fraud is common.
State Rep. Manny Diaz of Hialeah complains that his constituents tell him some Cubans are flaunting their aid money on visits to the Cuba. He said, “(the money) is definitely not to be used … to go have a great old time back in the country that was supposed to be oppressing you.”
“Some will collect their benefits and then go right back to Cuba were they can live more cheaply,” Vaughan confirmed.
The taxpayer cost is astounding. Because Cuban refugees are immediately eligible for social benefits including Social Security, lawmakers say it is hard to track rule breakers.
Diaz also alleged the refugees, “are taking benefits from the American taxpayer to subsidize their life in another country.’”
According to the Sun Sentinel, “One woman told Miami immigration attorney Grisel Ybarra that her grandmother and two great aunts came to Florida, got approved for benefits, opened bank accounts and returned to Cuba. Month after month, the woman cashed their government checks — about $2,400 each time — sending half to the women in Cuba and keeping the rest. When a welfare agency questioned the elderly ladies’ whereabouts this summer, the woman turned to Ybarra, a Cuban American. She told Ybarra her grandmother refused to come back, saying: ‘With the money you sent me, I bought a home and am really happy in Cuba.’”
However, Vaughan says the abuse is a self-inflicted policy and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) could easily tell border agents to require a visa before they cross into the US. But since its an election year, she says don’t expect Congress to act anytime soon. She also pointed out that under the United Nations refugee laws it’s the responsibility of the first nation to offer care under asylum. However, Mexico as well as other Central American countries are blatantly allowing the Cuban refugees to pass through and cross into America.
Last year, Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement jailed/deported dozens of Iraqi Christians who failed to report to ICE that they were granted asylum in another nation first. The 1966 Act has spawned immigrant envy as political factions compete for political favors.