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Posted August 08, 2006 by publisher in Cuba Human Rights

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By LARA JAKES JORDAN | Associated Press
The Bush administration is preparing to help reunite some Cuban families with relatives already in the United States as part of a limited easing of immigration rules following Fidel Castro’s handoff of power.

At the same time, draft documents obtained Monday describe proposals to discourage smugglers trying to sneak immigrants into the U.S. from Cuba, in hopes of impeding any mass migration. In addition, the plan would refuse entry to Cuban government officials who have engaged in human rights abuses but make it easier for some Cuban doctors to move to the U.S.

While stressing that any policy shift was not yet final, administration officials said the changes could be announced as early as this week.

“Taken together, they promote safe, legal and orderly migration, while they also support the Cuban people in their aspirations for a free and prosperous society,” says a draft copy of Homeland Security Department talking points obtained by The Associated Press.

The new rules are being considered three months before elections in which Florida’s governorship and at least one U.S. House seat in Florida are considered in play. Many Cuban immigrants live in the state.

The Homeland Security Department oversees U.S. immigration policy.

The administration has been tightlipped about any changes since Castro stunned the world by temporarily ceding power a week ago to his brother, Raul, to undergo surgery. U.S. officials say they fear that any signal of a relaxed immigration policy could trigger a mass migration from Cuba.

To discourage Cubans from setting off for the U.S. by boat or raft, the administration is considering plans to cancel or reject visa applications from those who are caught trying to sneak in. Currently, Cubans stopped at sea are returned home - or taken to the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay for asylum interviews if necessary - but do not face any penalties if they apply for visas in the future.

An estimated 125,000 Cubans fled the island in April 1980, followed by 40,000 more in August 1994. U.S. officials say fewer than 1,000 Cubans now reach American shores by sea annually.

Under the “wet foot/dry foot” policy, most Cubans who reach U.S. soil are allowed to remain, while those intercepted at sea are sent home. It is unknown how many attempt the risky voyage and don’t make it.

The documents indicate that measures to help more Cubans flee Castro’s government were under discussion before the longtime leader stepped aside. “The administration has been considering possible changes for some time,” noted a list of possible questions and answers included in the Homeland Security talking points.

President Bush said Monday, “We would hope that - and we’ll make this very clear - that as Cuba has the possibility of transforming itself from a tyrannical situation to a different type of society, the Cuban people ought to decide.”

Still, the Homeland Security documents reveal potential scenarios under discussion to help some Cubans flee their country. They include:

Reuniting families by allowing U.S. residents to apply for expedited parole - legal entry into the country - for close relatives in Cuba. This would speed the immigration process for an estimated 10,000 Cubans who are waiting for U.S. visas to join families in the United States. Fewer than 1,200 visas have been issued annually to Cubans over the past five years, the documents show.

The Cuban government, however, would have to agree to issue exit visas for people headed to the United States. The documents do not address what the U.S. would do if Cuban authorities denied the exit visas, except to note that the Cuban government can ensure “the safety and welfare of its nationals by granting exit permission to people who are ready to travel.”

Discouraging human smuggling operations from picking up Cubans at sea by allowing U.S.-based relatives to get information on their whereabouts. Currently, federal authorities are not supposed to release specific information about migrants who are picked up at sea.

Under one scenario, according to a Homeland Security official, the new policy would allow U.S. relatives to obtain that information through their representative in Congress. The lawmaker would then get the information from Homeland Security and pass it back to the constituent.

Giving Cuban doctors who have gone to other nations - and their families - more access to immigrating to the U.S. after undergoing background security checks. According to the documents, the Cuban government sends medical professionals to developing nations “as a foreign policy tool.” The administration also is considering expanding this benefit to other professions.

Refusing U.S. entry to Cubans, or deporting those who are already in the country, who are found to have committed human rights abuses on behalf of the Castro government.

“They will be barred from entering our country by legal means whenever possible, and if they are discovered within our borders, we will take every measure to ensure that they suffer the consequences for their past behavior,” the documents note.

Castro’s power handoff prompted the Bush administration to meet with congressional lawmakers in Miami and south Florida about possible immigration changes to accommodate an influx of Cuban migrants. An aide to one of the lawmakers, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, said efforts to reunite families were among plans being discussed.

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  1. Follow up post #1 added on August 08, 2006 by MiamiCuban

    Even though noble words like “reunite families” are used in this article, I don’t see this latest twist in immigration rules as something positive, and I suspect the intentions are, as always, to create unrest and destabilize the regime.  First of all, if Bush is so concerned about the separation of families, he should just lift the travel ban he imposed in 2004.  Second, I thought it was curious that he specifically mentions “doctors” and “other professions” as those he is inviting to defect with this policy.  I’m sure they’d like nothing more than to have all the doctors and teachers leave the island, as was the case in the 60’s.  But I think these are different times, and there’s a whole new generation of Cubans on the island.  I’m curious to see how this latest tactic will backfire.

  2. Follow up post #2 added on August 08, 2006 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    “I’m curious to see how this latest tactic will backfire.”

    Well said. When you are working with a flawed plan to start with (the Plan A Embargo), it can only get worse.

    What is the real reason Bush is doing this? Does he want doctors and teachers to leave as you say?

    US Cuba policy: Make the Cuban people suffer so much that they blame Castro and love the US?

    Yeah, right.

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  3. Follow up post #3 added on August 08, 2006 by Curt Bender

    Cubans already get preferential treatment. How about relaxing immigration rules for Haitans who live under much worse conditions

  4. Follow up post #4 added on August 09, 2006 by MiamiCuban

    Well said, Curt Bender.  Which is all the more reason why it’s obvious the relaxing of immigration rules is not because Bush has decided to play nice and alleviate the “hardship” in Cuba.  Your reference to Haiti is a perfect example. 
    Publisher: I’m not sure why Bush is doing this.  There could be a number of reasons.  Of one thing I am certain, it’s meant to cause further harm to Cuba in a sneaky, underhanded way.  I don’t know, maybe they hope doctors and other professionals begin leaving by the hundreds.  This would undoubtedly hurt the Cuban population, but others would suffer as well, in places like Latin America, Africa and Indonesia where Cuban doctors are helping the poorest of the poor.  As far as I know, we don’t have a shortage of doctors in the U.S., so why this open invitation to them in particular?  We have nothing to gain from the doctors coming here, while thousands of others have everything to lose.  HOWEVER, my guess is that they won’t see mass defection as hoped.  While there may be a few who go for the bait, I think that most will remain loyal to the true purpose of their profession, which they see as a service to humanity rather than as a tool for personal profit.

  5. Follow up post #5 added on August 22, 2007 by maleconLover

    I would love to see what you would think of these “special” visas if your family was separated by both horrible regimes.

    As far as Cubans having better treatment than Haitians - you should be happy that at least some people got it better; but instead you criticize the government. 

    It is very easy to be a socialist and to have your ideals when you live in a country that offers you an economical stability.  I call that opportunism.

    If you think Cubans don’t deserve to come to the United States on special visas or have special treatment, why don’t you try going to Cuba and living like one.  Yes - that is right!  Go to Cuba with no dollars, no car, no job, and try making a living there.  Then, maybe you would be one of the first ones in line to get one of the family reunion visas that you so condemn here.

    Also, if you feel so sorry for Haitians (notice the right spelling of the word), what have you done about making their lives better? 

    You criticize the government for keeping the embargo against Cuba.  I am also against the embargo, but have you done anything to alleviate the Cuban people’s misery?  No?  Then, you are just like your government.  With your opinions, I doubt it that we are going to be able to cure the many sick children that are currently suffering in Cuban hospitals that have absolutely no medicine.

    And just so you know, there is an embargo from the US in Cuba, but Cuba receives everything from other countries.  The problem is that it does not go to the Cuban people.  It goes to the tourism and to the government representatives.

    I wouldn’t be so sure about Doctors not wanting to defect to the United States either.  At this stage and age, even my grandmother (an ex-communist) wants to come to this country.

    And last but not least, I would suggest that you inform yourself more about the situation of Cuban people when you talk about Cuba.  For some reason Americans think that because they have read a little bit about Cuba they know more about Cuba than those who were born in the Island.

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