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U.S.-Cuba diplomacy: Will it jeopardize green cards?
ALFONSO CHARDY Y NORA GAMEZ TORRES ACHARDY@MIAMIHERALD.COM
01/12/2015 1:32 PM 01/12/2015 4:45 PM

For almost 50 years, the Cuban Adjustment Act has allowed hundreds of
thousands of refugees and immigrants from the island to obtain green
cards after they settle in the United States.

While many Cubans fear the restoration of diplomatic relations between
Washington and Havana will bring about the demise of the Cuban
Adjustment Act, some immigration experts say that is unlikely.

Unlike the order to normalize relations with Cuba, repeal of the Cuban
Adjustment Act cannot be done by presidential decree. It requires
congressional involvement, according to immigration attorneys familiar
with the issue.

“A lot needs to be done in order to repeal the Cuban Adjustment Act,”
Mario Urizar, who works for a prominent South Florida law firm, said in
a written statement. “In order for this to happen the President and
Congress need to work together in determining that Cuba has a
democratically elected government — which is far from realization.

“But, what is true, is these recent talks between the U.S. and Cuba
could lead to Cubans being physically . Currently, the majority
of Cubans with Removal or Deportation orders … are not subject to
physical removal because Cuba will not accept them,” Urizar said. “As
these talks with Cuba continue, I don’t see why the United States would
pass on the opportunity to try to secure physical removals for these
individuals back to Cuba.”

Urizar, as well as prominent immigration attory Ira Kurzban, said a
change in the law it could come in two ways: a presidential
determination submitted to congressional committees that a
democratically-elected government is in power in Cuba or separate
congressional action specifically repealing the law.

However, three prominent Republican Cuban-American lawmakers — Sen.
Marco Rubio and Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart — said
improved relations between the U.S. and Cuba may have an impact on the
Cuban Adjustment Act.

“The President’s egregious concessions to the Castro regime clearly put
the future of the Cuban Refugee Adjustment Act in jeopardy,” Diaz-Balart
said in an e-mail to el Nuevo Herald. “The President’s efforts to
normalize relations with the Castro regime would seem to indicate that
the situation in Cuba has improved, when in fact it has
deteriorated.”

“I don’t know of any organized efforts to repeal it, but I would venture
to guess that there will be efforts to repeal it by some,” Rubio said
during a press briefing last week.

Ros-Lehtinen said in an e-mail to el Nuevo Herald that it’s still
unclear what impact the Cuba policy shift will have on the Cuban
Adjustment Act.

“Whether the Cuban Adjustment Act will be debated in an isolated manner
or as part of a larger immigration package is still unknown” said
Ros-Lehtinen.

On Friday, Ros-Lehtinen joined other Cuban-American lawmakers — among
them Diaz-Balart and Rep. Carlos Curbelo, as well as Texas Sen. Ted
Cruz, New Jersey Rep. Albio Sires and West Virginia Rep. Alex Mooney —
in sending a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry urging the
administration to “immediately halt its normalization efforts toward
Cuba and the Castro dictatorship.”

The fate of the landmark Cuban Adjust Act is now a focus of debate both
in South Florida and Cuba and may be behind an uptick in the number of
Cuban migrants trying to reach U.S. shores on rafts.

Since President Barack Obama announced his Cuba policy shift Dec. 17,
there has been a significant spike in the Cuban migrant flow in the
Florida straits, said Coast Guard Miami spokesman, Lt. Cmdr. Gabe Somma.

Between Dec. 1 and Dec. 16. only about 132 Cuban rafters landed on U.S.
beaches or were interdicted or sighted at sea near Florida. But between
Dec. 17 and Jan. 1, at least 421 Cubans landed or were sighted or
interdicted, Somma said.

Increased interdictions have led to an increased number of Cubans being
returned to the island and also to a greater number of Cubans making it
to shore.

Last week, the Coast Guard repatriated 121 Cuban migrants who had been
picked up at sea in seven separate interdiction events near the Florida
coast. It was one of the largest repatriations in recent times. The
Coast Guard, in a statement, said it was increasing its patrolling of
the Florida Straits “in response to the surge of migration
attempts into the United States” by Cuban migrants.

Under current policy, Cuban migrants interdicted at sea are generally
returned to Cuba while those who make it to U.S. oil are allowed to stay
and can apply for a green card after a year and a day in the country.
The wet-foot/dry-foot policy derives from the Cuban Adjustment Act that
was implemented in 1966 both to streamline the green card adjustment
process and asylum proceedings for Cuban migrants.

Recently arrived Cuban migrants, interviewed last week outside the Doral
offices of Church World Service, one of the service agencies that assist
migrants in resettlement, said many people on the island are planning to
leave by boat because of the widespread belief that the demise of the
Cuban Adjustment Act and the wet-foot/dry-foot policy is imminent.

“There are people who fear that the benefits Cubans get when they arrive
will be taken away,” said Yuniel Germán Alonso, 33, who arrived Dec. 31
in the Florida Keys aboard a small boat with three other people.

Yoandri Usatorres Cutiño, 31, who arrived in Miami Jan. 2 after crossing
the Texas border at Laredo on New Year’s day, echoed Alonso’s analysis.

“Many more people are going to try to come to the United States from
Cuba because the overall fear that soon the welcoming door will be
shut,” said Cutiño.

Source: U.S.-Cuba diplomacy: Will it jeopardize green cards? | The Miami
Herald –
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article6088452.html

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