Miami-Dade commission urges Congress to revise Cuban Adjustment Act
BY PATRICIA MAZZEI PMAZZEI@MIAMIHERALD.COM
01/21/2015 6:54 PM 01/21/2015 7:22 PM
The most unusual of votes about U.S.-Cuba policy took place Wednesday —
not in Washington or Havana, but in Miami.
After a wrought discussion, the Miami-Dade County Commission unanimously
agreed to ask Congress to revise the Cuban Adjustment Act, a 1966
federal law that allows Cubans, unlike any other foreigners, to apply
for U.S. residency one year and one day after arriving.
As a local government, the commission has no foreign-policy authority.
But as a legislative body in the home of the country’s largest Cuban
community, the vote represents a symbolic acknowledgment — even from
longtime hardliners — that at least portions of U.S.-Cuba policy needs a
“This is a good thing that has been misused in some cases, but it
doesn’t mean we have to throw it away,” Commissioner Javier Souto, a
Cuban-born Republican, said of the CAA. “We shouldn’t throw the baby out
with the bathwater.”
Commissioner Bruno Barreiro, the Republican son of Cuban immigrants who
became U.S. residents thanks to the law, had proposed asking Congress to
repeal it altogether — a bold request that drew attention among Cuban
exiles already on edge about President Obama’s move to normalize
relations with the island’s communist regime.
From the dais Wednesday, Barreiro dismissed criticism that he was
jumping on the Obama administration’s bandwagon, or reacting to reports
that have highlighted how criminals have abused the CAA’s privileges. He
said he first asked the county attorney’s office to draft similar
legislation in 2009.
The reason, according to Barreiro: Fidel and Raúl Castro have used to
the CAA to their advantage, as a way to encourage dissidents to leave
the island and stop posing a political threat. The law has also allowed
the Castros to send spies to infiltrate the U.S., Barreiro said.
“On a micro level, on a personal level, I strongly believe it has
helped, substantially, the individual Cubans who have come and been able
to seek freedom and work hard for their family and have a prosperous
life,” Barreiro said. “But on a macro level, on a large-scale policy
issue for a regime — a totalitarian regime — unfortunately, I think it’s
benefited the regime.”
His proposal prompted some of the five other Cuban Americans on the
13-member, Republican-majority board to relate personal histories about
when and how their families left Cuba. A teary Rebeca Sosa, a Republican
who left Cuba for Puerto Rico when she was 8, said she couldn’t support
a repeal without the establishment of a Cuban democracy.
“I will never place my vote on knocking down something that has helped
people who really escaped from that regime,” she said.
In the end, Barreiro accepted an amendment offered by Esteban “Steve”
Bovo, a Republican whose father is a Bay of Pigs veteran, asking
Congress to “revisit and amend the Cuban Adjustment Act to ensure the
continued protection of immigrants fleeing political persecution.”
Bovo cited past statements by Miami Republicans in Congress, including
Sen. Marco Rubio, who have all endorsed revising the CAA to tighten its
restrictions. They have characterized their goal as weeding out
so-called economic refugees who return to Cuba as soon as they’re
legally able, sometimes taking with them the wealth they have
accumulated in the U.S.
Though the vote carried no foreign-policy weight — something
commissioners repeatedly conceded — they took it seriously and,
concerned that the measure could backfire on Barreiro, they praised him
for his “courage” in bringing up a divisive and contentious question.
“I know there’s just a lot of pain and personal suffering, but let’s try
to look forward,” said Commissioner Juan C. Zapata, a Colombian-American
Republican. “Let’s be bold and take a step that maybe will have some
Source: Miami-Dade commission urges Congress to revise Cuban Adjustment
Act | The Miami Herald The Miami Herald –