For many years, due to Cold War politics, Cuban immigrants have enjoyed significant advantages over immigrants from other countries. Unlike other immigrants, Cubans who make it to U.S. soil have an automatic right to enter the country. They can apply for a green card after being in the U.S. for one year and a day.
Cuban immigrants are also eligible for government benefits like housing assistance, work permits, Medicaid and food stamps soon after they arrive. Florida’s Cuban-American community has grown and benefited from these policies.
Recently there has been a surge in Cuban immigration to the U.S., as people fear that improving relations between the two countries might bring an end to these policies. Since October 1 of last year, more than 35,600 immigrants from Cuba have arrived in the U.S.
Their fears of a policy change may have some merit. Florida Senator Marco Rubio, himself the son of Cuban immigrants, has proposed legislation that would restrict Cuban immigration to the U.S. for the first time since 1966. His proposal would allow Cuban immigrants to retain some advantages over other immigrants but would crack down on what Rubio claims are abuses of government benefit programs.
According to Rubio, it’s time to stop automatically giving refugee status to all Cuban immigrants. Under his proposed law, to be eligible for refugee benefits a Cuban immigrant would have to prove they actually fear persecution in their homeland.
Immigrants coming to the U.S. need to understand their rights under U.S. law. If Rubio’s proposed law is enacted, the rights of Cuban immigrants will be significantly affected. It is important for anyone arriving from Cuba, or who wants to bring family members from Cuba to the U.S., to keep abreast of any changes in the law.
Source: CNN.com, “The last flight and first steps: ‘Historic’ surge of Cubans crossing into U.S.,” Catherine E. Shoichet, June 1, 2016