The issue of immigration policies in the United States is a constantly heated topic, President Obama touched upon it during his inauguration speech as the “journey not being complete”. In the midst of it all, new Cuban immigration rules instituted just a week ago, on January 14, 2013, brings to question the future of American and Cuban immigration policies.
Under the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act, about 20,000 Cubans per year are allowed to apply for residency in the United States. Of course, we all know from the Elian Gonzalez case, some Cubans’ final resort is to cross borders dangerously through Mexico or by sea. The Wet Foot Dry Foot Policy allows Cubans that have touched American soil to be applicable for residency.
The new Cuban immigration rules under Raul Castro could potentially change the course of action for Cubans seeking to leave the country. Most importantly, this would also increase interest and grant residency to expatriates back to Cuba.
Overall, the Cuban government is attempting to create closer ties with expatriates who live abroad. The previous one month visitation rule has been changed to three under the new policies. Also, Cubans wishing to return for good can reapply for residency.
There are also policy changes for Cubans who desire to immigrate. There will be an elimination of time consuming and expensive paperwork–only a passport will be required to travel. Medical professionals will be allowed to go abroad, although there will be a limitation based on sectors. Previous automatic loss of property for Cuban immigrants will no longer take immediate effect. An extension of a “come-back” period will extend from 11 months to 2 years.
There are conflicting arguments about the effects of these new policies and the impact it could have on future Cuban-American immigration procedures. The New York Times quoted Philip Peters, vice president of the Lexington Institute, who follows the United States’ relationship with Cuba, “Over all, this speaks to a desire to move towards a more normal immigration policy and a more normal country where people go back and forth, work, send money.” However he also states that, “The laws and procedures we have for victims of persecution are perfectly adequate — we don’t need a special policy for Cubans.”2
Even Cuban natives residing in the United States are perplexed, “I want to see my people coming here and getting residency and having a good life, but I do see that it’s not fair,” Romy Aranguiz, a physician from Cuba who settled in the United States in 2002.
With much attention in the media, within the U.S. government, and personal cases, it does seem that some new immigration procedures will take effect within the United States regarding its current immigrant population. In light of these new Cuban policies, there could be speculation with regards to the Cuban Adjustment Act and the Wet Foot Dry Foot policy.
By Being Latino Contributor, Claudia Cutlip