Since re-establishing diplomatic relations with the island nation of Cuba two years ago, more than 80,000 of the island nation’s citizens have entered the U.S., instantly receiving fast track status for citizenship via the Cuban Adjustment Act (CAA), a law adopted in 1966. Now one congressman on Capitol Hill says it’s time to repeal CAA and to start treating Cubans like any other migrant group looking for entry into the country.
Henry Cuellar, a Democrat from Texas whose district reaches into part of the Rio Grande Valley, says the elevated status held by Cuban immigrants in terms of eligibility for federal assistance– food stamps, resettlement aid and other programs not available to other immigrants– is simply unfair.
Cuellar contrasts the treatment of Cuban immigrants with the situation faced by tens of thousands of Central American migrants– many of whom enter the United States through his district.
“They are arrested by Border Patrol, have to face an immigration judge and always have the fear of being deported,” he says.
His effort to level the playing field by working with others on Capitol Hill to repeal CAA is a long shot, Cuellar admits. Another bill, which stops financial assistance to Cuban migrants is more likely to pass, he says.
The slanted treatment among the immigrant population that’s pointed out by the congressman is magnified, considering the ever-increasing numbers of Cuban nationals entering the country. According to CNN.com, Customs and Border Protection numbers show an average of 10,000 Cubans entering the U.S. each year.
In 2012, when the Cuban government loosened travel restrictions on citizens, that number spiked. With the ability to leave the country, many Cubans traveled through Ecuador en route to the U.S.
From October 2013 to December 2015, when the U.S. and Cuba re-established diplomatic relations, the number of Cuban migrants entering the country jumped to more than 80,000 migrants entering the country each year.
“The trend shows no signs of slowing,” according to the CNN report. “More Cubans are coming to the United States because they fear that a thaw in U.S.-Cuban relations will end a longstanding policy granting legal status to any Cuban national who reaches dry land in the United States.”