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Junge Welt, Germany

The Thing About Visas

By Volker Hermsdorf

So it's precisely those who previously accused Cuba of restricting the travel rights of its people who now call for more travel restrictions on Cubans.

Translated By Ron Argentati

21 January 2013

Edited by Gillian Palmer

Germany - Junge Welt - Original Article (German)

For decades, Washington has accused Havana of denying its citizens the freedom to travel. Now Havana is accusing the U.S. of the same thing.

Last Thursday, a U.S. court convicted two gangsters of selling falsified Cuban birth certificates to Latin American citizens, charging them anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000 apiece. The gang made at least $500,000 over the past three years with this scheme. The head of the gang, Fidel Morejón, himself a Cuban emigrant, is scheduled to appear in court next Monday. The proceedings expose the absurdity of a U.S. law that was intended to destabilize the island nation's socialist government but that has now come back to haunt its creators.

Passage of the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act (CAA) automatically granted political refugee status to any illegal alien from Cuba. While other Latin American immigrants without documentation were being routinely arrested and deported, illegal Cuban immigrants were given housing, a work permit and, after residing in the U.S. for a year and a day, permanent immigrant status. Originally labeled an “aid for victims of a communist dictatorship,” its actual intent was to encourage illegal emigration from Cuba, with the aim of creating a population exodus and the ultimate collapse of Cuban society.

But what emerged out of the terrorism-oriented anti-Castro groups in Miami, as well as from their political representatives in various parties, parliaments and governments, was primarily a Mafia-like organization of human traffickers with political power. According to some estimates, these illegal Cuban immigration gangs profited to the tune of some $5 million to $6 million annually. This unscrupulous business ultimately cost the lives of thousands of Cubans who drowned on the 90-mile journey from Cuba to Florida over the past decade. Despite the carnage, that law remained a solid pillar of U.S. policy against Cuba. American politicians and journalists calling for the law to be overturned attracted vicious attacks and a good deal of hate-filled rhetoric from the ultra-rightists in Miami.

But it's an entirely different playing field since Cuba issued its new travel guidelines on Jan. 14. Cubans now need only a valid passport and whatever visa paperwork is required by the destination country. The rule change touched off panic among the militant anti-Castro groups; U.S. immigration officials also see a need for some action, because the decades-old legal weapon against Cuba has suddenly become a boomerang for U.S. policy.

Under the new Cuban rules, citizens can stay in the United States 24 months and longer without fear of losing any rights and privileges with regard to their Cuban citizenship. Since they can legally claim U.S. residency after a year and a day in the United States, this group can now commute at will between Cuba and the U.S. without bothering to obtain a U.S. visa. The legal permission to live in Cuba and work in the United States might appeal to many citizens in the socialist island nation, but to many in the U.S., where unemployment is a problem, it's likely to be seen as a threat.

So it's precisely those who previously accused Cuba of restricting the travel rights of its people who now call for more travel restrictions on Cubans. At a Miami press conference, representatives of several anti-Castro organizations complained that more and more Cubans would come to the U.S. to work rather than stay at home and criticize the Castro regime. They demanded that immigrants claiming residency under the CAA also be prohibited from ever returning to Cuba.

The most well-known of the ultra-right Cuban exiles, Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who has historically defended the CAA with all her might, is now calling for it to be changed. In her opinion, the CAA should only benefit those Cuban citizens actively supporting an overthrow of the current Cuban government and demanding regime change in their country.



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