Congressman David Rivera (R-FL) recently proposed changes to the Cuban Adjustment Act to prevent Cuban nationals from receiving residency through the Act and then returning to visit Cuba. In a statement on the matter, Rep. Rivera says:
The fact that Cubans avail themselves of the Cuban Adjustment Act citing political persecution, and then quickly travel back to the persecuting country, is a clear and blatant abuse of the law. In fact it is outright fraud being perpetrated on the people and government of the United States. If Cubans are able to travel back to the communist dictatorship then they should not have received the residency benefits associated with the Cuban Adjustment Act and they should lose that benefit immediately. My legislation simply says that any Cuban national who receives political asylum and residency under the Cuban Adjustment Act, and travels to Cuba while still a resident, will have their residency status revoked.
Mr. Rivera states that his intent is to reform the CAA in order to save this important benefit for future generations of Cubans.
It is interesting that a politician from Florida–particularly one with the anti-Castro bona fides of Mr. Rivera–would have the chutzpa to challenge the Cuban American community on this issue. It doesn’t strike me as a particularly wise move politically, even if it makes sense from a policy point of view.
Although I am generally pro-asylum, I have long believed that the CAA should be abolished. The fact that (presumably) many Cubans are returning to the home island for a visit after they receive status in the U.S. just confirms the absurdity of this law. Clearly, all the Cubans taking advantage of the CAA are not refugees in the normal sense of the word. If a Cuban person reaches our shores, he should apply for asylum like everyone else. If he demonstrates a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion or particular social group, he should receive asylum. Otherwise, he should be removed from the United States. Mr. Rivera’s proposed reform–which is ostensibly to help preserve the CAA–seems pointless given that the law is simply not worth preserving.
Indeed, the only real justification for the CAA that seems remotely reasonable is that it gives us a propaganda win over Cuba since it demonstrates that lots of Cubans would rather live here than there. Aside from the fact that our country has been enriched by large numbers of Cuban migrants, I don’t see what this propaganda victory has achieved. The CAA was passed in 1966 and–45 years later–the Castro brothers are still in charge.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a pro-immigrant Congresswoman from California, opposes the proposed change to the CAA:
“No matter what the reason for stepping foot in Cuba, you lose your status,” Lofgren said. “If you go to visit family members you haven’t seen in years, you lose your status. If you go to attend a funeral or donate a kidney to a dying relative, you lose your status. If you go to meet with Cuban dissidents with the aim of transitioning Cuba to a democracy, you lose your status.”
Welcome to the world of refugees from every country other than Cuba. Asylum seekers and refugees who return to their home country for any reason, including donating a kidney, risk losing their status in the United States. Again, while I favor offering safe haven to people who need it, I certainly understand why the government would want to cancel a refugee’s immigration status if she returned to her home country. Of course there might be compelling reasons to return home, and so refugees and asylees who do so can sometimes retain their status. But given the limited resources of our asylum system, a presumption in favor of such people losing their status makes sense.
In any case, it seems Mr. Rivera’s proposal is not getting much traction. A more appropriate proposal would be to eliminate the CAA altogether and require Cubans who fear persecution to apply for asylum like everyone else.
Originally posted on the Asylumist: www.Asylumist.com.
Jason Dzubow's practice focuses on immigration law, asylum, and appellate litigation. Mr. Dzubow is admitted to practice law in the federal and state courts of Washington, DC and Maryland, the United States Courts of Appeals for the Third, Fourth, Eleventh, and DC Circuits, all Immigration Courts in the United States, and the Board of Immigration Appeals. He is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and the Capital Area Immigrant Rights (CAIR) Coalition. In June 2009, CAIR Coalition honored Mr. Dzubow for his Outstanding Commitment to Defending the Rights and Dignity of Detained Immigrants.