We Now Know: The Real Enemies of the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act.

Marco Rubio, David Rivera


In 2009, in an interview with a TV station in Naples, Florida, Mario Diaz-Balart compared Cuban Americans traveling to see their relatives in Cuba with unscrupulous businessmen in deals with the Nazis. Mr. Diaz-Balart's unfortunate historical analogy began a constant three-year barrage against the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act by Cuban American legislators who claim it is misused by a significant segment of the Cuban American Community, the same constituents they are supposed to represent.  

The Cuban government has denounced the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act for decades as a “murderous” policy and has unilaterally blamed it for the migration of thousands of Cubans to Florida, ignoring the push factors that prompt them to leave their country.  But this rhetoric has never had any effect on American policymakers.  Since 1966, no bill has ever come close to passing in congress that would end the Cuban Adjustment Act. The law gives the benefit of legal residence to most Cubans who came to the United States in search of the economic and political rights they didn’t have in their country. The statute has benefited the United States with an influx of mostly educated Cuban immigrants, who have relatives in the United States helping them to have a smooth landing in their newly adopted country.

But the fact that many of these Cubans disagree with Castro doesn’t mean they agree with the US embargo against Cuba that treats everybody there, including their relatives on the island and the emerging private sector, as an “enemy of the United States”. More than 300,000 Cuban Americans are voting with their feet against the travel ban and the asphyxiation strategy against Cuba condensed in the Helms-Burton Act. This has angered Marco Rubio, Mario Diaz-Balart, Robert Menendez, and David Rivera who have made their political career out of defending the policy of property claims, and political revenge.

The Cuban American legislators are trying to scare the Cuban American Community by saying that because Cubans are visiting their relatives on the island without any limitations, the Cuban Adjustment Act is in peril. That is simply not true. Since 1978, when Cuban Americans began to visit their country of origin, hundreds of thousands have visited the island and neither party in Congress (Republican or Democrat) have tried to end the Cuban Adjustment Act and no President wasted any time trying to do so. Not a single bill amending or ending the Cuban Adjustment Act has passed a committee of any chamber of Congress in the last fifteen years.

Let’s call the circus what it is. The only danger to the Cuban Adjustment Act is Marco Rubio, David Rivera and Mario Diaz-Balart's reckless rhetoric about the Act.  

The three Cuban American legislators are attracting attention to a 1966 Act that no other member of Congress cares about.  By opening a congressional debate about the statute, they have become the disease they pretend to cure. Representatives Diaz-Balart and Rivera, together with Senator Rubio are using a hypothetical abrogation of the Act to scare their constituents, blaming the Obama Administration for creating dynamics that they claim endanger Cuban opportunities to immigrate to the United States. This is absolutely false. They, and not the Obama Administration, are the only ones playing rhetorical games and even introducing legislation to end, totally or partially, the possibilities for Cubans to benefit from the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act.

The Cuban American right is trying to delay inevitable demographic changes in their districts in the case that, as it is expected, Raul Castro’s government changes its migratory regulations and allows more new-generation Cubans to travel abroad, particularly to the United States. Rivera, Rubio and Diaz-Balart realize that many of the people currently coming from Cuba will not vote for them after naturalization. That is why they are playing Cuban parochial politics with US national interest. Rivera, Diaz-Balart and Rubio want to end the Cuban Adjustment Act in practice, and blame it on Obama‘s liberation of family travel.

The Cuban Adjustment Act is about adjusting the status of Cuban immigrants living in the United States, a great nation committed to family values. Cuban Americans do not have any responsibility whatsoever to forget about their relatives on the island, to not visit them, or to not do all we can for them. It is just and humane for Cubans to receive the benefits of the Cuban Adjustment Act while being free to travel to support our families. As former Attorney General Robert Kennedy wrote to Secretary of State Dean Rusk, just two months after his brother was assassinated, the travel ban is "inconsistent with traditional American liberties"

The Obama Administration should not let the enemies of its policy towards Cuba scare their constituents with lies just to gain votes in 2012. The White House should make a clear declaration of support for the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act and the intention of the president to veto any bill that includes a revocation or ammendment of the statute. It is a matter of demography and good politics; the composition of the Cuban American community is changing. The pro-embargo legislators have the watches but the new Cuban-Americans, with permanent links with the island, have the time. 

Dawn Gable edited this article.