In 112th Congress, Rubio May Have to Defend Special Immigration Benefits for Cubans
Last week I read with interest Juan Tamayo’s article in the Miami Herald and the Cuban Triangle’s analysis about a new policy to further expedite Cuban immigrants joining nuclear family in the United States, by offering them immediate permanent residency (a green card on arrival). That’s pretty darn good treatment, wouldn’t you say?
But Florida's Director of the Department of Children and Families found something to worry about in this fast track arrangement. According to the Herald , the Director wrote a letter making the following points:
"The shift would deny those Cubans the right to health screenings and immunizations, Medicaid and Refugee Medical Assistance as well as employment services, English language, vocational training and help with child care, according to the letter.
Cubans affected will then have to turn to financially strapped public hospitals and clinics for care, it added, and to overburdened state programs for employment and language assistance."
In case you didn't know it, Cubans who arrive in the United States are afforded full refugee treatment, even if they aren’t actually fleeing a war zone or life-threatening persecution. (As Phil Peters points out, the idea of refugee resettlement benefits is to help people who arrive with literally the clothes on their backs, with no real support network to lean on.) But these days, most Cubans who arrive in the United States are economic migrants – they’re fleeing a stagnant economic model and joining family already resettled in Miami or elsewhere around the country.
But once a government benefit is conferred to a group, particularly one perceived to be influential to the political fortunes of Florida and national politicians alike, there's no taking it away.
And so the State of Florida insists that the full package of adjustment assistance should still be offered to Cuban immigrants, who already get preferential status over any other immigrants (a green card within one year of arriving without a legal visa, or for those processed in advance to join family in the U.S., on arrival), and who receive the full complement of refugee benefits, even though most are not refugees with no other means of assistance. But – and here’s the big catch - the state wants the federal government to pay for it.
I wonder how that makes the taxpayers in my home state of Georgia who are helping to foot this bill feel? Will any of the budget hawks gathering around the Capitol come January take aim at this cushy federal benefit package?
There's no doubt that Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Diaz-Balart (newly appointed to the Appropriations Committee) and Senator-Elect Marco Rubio would lay down on the train tracks to protect the refugee benefit package for Cuban Americans. As Rubio pointed out back in 2008, with more Cuban Americans traveling to the island, someone might catch on, and take away Cubans special status as refugees:
“What makes Cubans different from Haitians who come here or anyone else, if they go back and forth, that is to say, if they’re not exiles at all? In that case, why should Cubans be any different?”
That’s a good question, one to which the senator-elect may soon need to find an answer.