Many things have changed in the last five years for Cubans who aspire to achieve the American dream.
Since the end in 2017 of the Dry Foot, Wet Foot policy –that granted immediate benefits just by stepping on American soil – the path to the privilege of being able to apply for permanent residence in the United States after a year and a day is increasingly narrow for irregular migrants from the island.
“I entered through the border with Mexico just before [el entonces presidente de EEUU, Barack] Obama will remove Dry Feet, Wet Feet, just days before. They gave me benefits food stamp and my work permit arrived immediately. Then I took advantage of the Adjustment Law and my residency came four months later, “she told the voice of americaSusel Alonso, a Cuban professor based in Miami.
His brother, Frank Alonso, arrived just seven months later with a tourist visa and had to “wait one year and one day to apply for residency,” the term set in the Cuban Adjustment Act (CAA, for its acronym in English). , a unique benefit of its kind that gives Cuban nationals a safe path to the long-awaited green card American and dating from the 1960s.
The teacher said that her brother did not have “any of the benefits that they gave before, he had to be without anything, without papers or anything until the deadline was met.” However, she acknowledged that “even so, it is a much simpler and safer way” to regularize immigration status in the US than “what others like Mexicans, Colombians, Venezuelans have to go through.”
“We know that we are privileged,” Alonso admitted. However, Cubans arriving at the US southern border with Mexico no longer have it so easy.
What was given is over?
Abel Caminero, a Havana native who entered through El Paso, Texas, last December, did not receive the necessary “parole” or permit to later regularize his status under the CAA. “They gave me a form and told me that later they should give me an appointment for my asylum case, but my lawyer told me that this would take years.”
“Meanwhile, I’m in Miami, living at my cousin’s house and working as I can, but still without a fixed course or real possibilities to apply to the Law. Anyway, I don’t lose hope,” he assured the VOA.
Cubans and Nicaraguans could still enter the US through the southern border with Mexico, despite the still current Title 42the controversial health measure that allows asylum seekers to be returned to Mexican territory.
The historic records in migrant arrivals to the border with Mexico during fiscal year 2022, especially from Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, caused the administration of President Joe Biden to move to try to stop the crisis and put a humanitarian parole is underwayfirst for Venezuelans and then extended to Nicaraguans, Cubans and Haitians.
This program combines the granting of 30,000 visas per month for citizens of these four countries with the restriction of irregular entries. Anyone trying to enter illegally will not be eligible for parole, Biden warned in January.
Recently, the US Department of Homeland Security announced that since the implementation of this measure, irregular entries of nationals from these countries have fallen by 97%.
Immigration attorney, Rosaly Chaviano, explained to the VOA that the measure has a “positive side” because it “helps control the human trafficking that is taking place from Nicaragua” and gives migrants a “direct and much faster path” to reach the US legally from their own countries.
However, Chaviano pointed out that the 30,000 visas a month is only a fraction of the number of people who managed to enter the US before the program. “It gives a bit of relief, but at the same time, there are so many other people who are not going to be given a solution,” he said.
“Like the others” but still with advantages
“Unfortunately, at this time, Cubans are being treated like any other nationality when it comes to entering the US (…) Here there is no type of preference,” insisted Chaviano, who mentioned the “great unknown” and the confusion among those who were already in Mexico en route to the US.
The lawyer acknowledged that she receives many questions from Cubans who want to know how to get to US territory. “The answer is: you can’t get there, because if you enter they’re going to send you back to Mexico and you’re going to be ineligible for the parole program,” she pointed out.
Despite the restriction on arrivals, analysts point out that, despite everything, the privilege of the Cuban Adjustment Act is maintained, although it will no longer be open to as many migrants as before.
“The Cuban Adjustment Act can only be repealed by Congress (…) At the moment, there seems to be no political will to eliminate said law, especially in an ideological context as polarized as the current one and where immigration appears as one of the the most divisive issues in American society,” he told the VOA the director of the Cuban Research Institute of the Florida International University, Jorge Duany.
For Duany, an expert with years of research on the subject, the “Biden Administration is trying to walk a tightrope: stop the enormous flow of undocumented Cubans without disrupting the legal basis that allows most of them to become permanent residents of the United States under the Cuban Adjustment Act”.
In his opinion, “it remains to be seen” if these new regulations “will substantially change the situation of Cuban immigrants who seek to enter clandestinely across the border.”
Boston University professor Susan Eckstein, author of ‘The Cuban privilege: the formation of migration inequality in the US’. For Eckstein, “the impact of Biden’s new policy remains to be seen” because “it depends on how many parole visas assigned to the Cubans; I suspect that a large part of the promised 30,000 monthly visas,” he warned the VOA.
A benefit that distinguishes
To qualify for the Cuban Adjustment Act, one of the main requirements -besides being a Cuban citizen- is to have been “inspected” at a point of entry and legally “admitted”, “an important legal technicality”, in the opinion of the associate professor of History, Michael Bustamante.
The researcher and president of the Emilio Bacardí Moreau Chair of Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami, recalled when asked by the VOA that “Cubans who enter through the new parole program will comply with this requirement.”
“Compared to what had been happening, the path towards the Adjustment Act is now restricted, as happened when the repeal of Pies Secos Pies Mojados and the subsequent restrictive policy of the Trump administration on the border,” Bustamante said.
The new program limits entries, “something that in itself makes a difference,” but, as Bustamante points out, other groups such as Venezuelans and Nicaraguans “do not have an Adjustment Law at their disposal to convert a parole (which is nothing more than a temporary permit) of two years, in permanent residence. Cubans do”.
For his part, Eckstein agreed that the islanders “will remain minimally privileged because Cubans are the only ones who have access to an Adjustment Act to become legal permanent residents. For the rest of the nationalities, entry is for two years with rights limited”.
“The possibility of entering through the border has been more equalized, for the worse, I would say. But the access to an Adjustment Law for some beneficiaries of new programs of parole continues to be something that will distinguish the Cuban case,” he concluded.
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