Cuba’s Updated Migration Policy Totally Confounds the United States and the Micro-Republic of Miami

Edmundo García

Translation: Machetera

On Monday, January 14, Cuba’s updated migration policy went into force and one of the listeners of my radio program, La Tarde se Mueve (Afternoon Moves) called in to say that it was as though the floor had been yanked right out from under the Miami critics of the Cuban revolution. They can’t figure out where to stand; they’re completely adrift in the comments they’re making on the radio, TV, and other regular press outlets.

At the end of the program, around 6 pm., I heard Willy Allen, the Cuban American immigration attorney tell Ramon Saul Sanchez on his program for La Poderosa (The Powerful One), “I believe that these measures are barely going to change the situation there (in Cuba),” while Sanchez responded, “But the dissident Guillermo Fariñas says that he’s been told he can go wherever he wants and then return.” Willy answered, “Oh, I didn’t know that, but look, there are hardly any exiles left. For the last 20 years the huge majority of those who come to Miami are immigrants.”

That’s exactly what we’ve been saying every day at La Tarde se Mueve; that this is one of the reasons for Cuba’s updating of its migration policy: the composition of Cuban emigration has changed, particularly in regard to the United States, where it occurs more for economic than political reasons, and this is a reality that must be taken into account. So it turns out that Willy Allen, the braintrust behind the Miami project known as “Repression ID,” dedicated to pursuing Cuban emigrants who’ve supposedly participated in crimes against human rights in Cuba, agrees with us.

The Cuban measures are so disconcerting that Miami’s Cuban American rightwing has been completely disoriented by them. So disoriented in fact that you can see it in Alfonso Chardy’s recent report at El Nuevo Herald about a meeting on U.S. immigration reform that took place in the offices of Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart in Doral. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen also attended the meeting. The Cubans were not the main objective but the subject of Cuba’s updated migration policy came up and after both threatened to change or eliminate the Cuban Adjustment Act, Diaz-Balart played stupid, saying that these were proposals made by other congressional representatives, other colleagues; while Ileana later swore up and down that she had no plans or intentions regarding eliminating or changing the Cuban Adjustment Act. That’s how confused they are; they can’t even get their story straight.

From Miami and other parts of the world, some tried to deny that the measures are anything new. Since among the skeptics there are some honest people who have nothing to do with the usual reactionaries, I want to say to them that in a way, it’s understandable that some don’t see a huge change in the Cuban migration situation, because for quite some time, these changes have been underway, gradually but convincingly. As was said from the beginning, this is an “updating” and not an overturning, apology or repentant revision of Cuban migration policy.

In a press conference offered on October 24, 2012, the Secretary of the Council of State, Homero Acosta, reported that according to official data, between the year 2000 and August 31 of 2012, 99.4% of the exit permits solicited by Cubans were granted. Only 0.6% were denied, for substantiated reasons. In that same period of time, some 941,953 persons traveled abroad for particular reasons, of which 120,975 did not return, a total of 12.8%. Of the total who traveled, 156,068 were university graduates and of those, 10.9% did not return.

According to Acosta, “these statistics confirm that the great majority of Cubans who travel abroad return to Cuba.” Which is to say that an abrupt change in Cuban migration policy does not exist, nor is there any need for one, since the image of Cuba as a tropical gulag or prison from which one cannot leave or enter – as the manipulative major media at the service of foreign interests have historically portrayed it – is simply untrue.

As the data show, Cubans who have really wanted to travel have been doing so regularly without many more limits than those that might exist in any other country. This was confirmed on Monday, January 14, when the new migration measures announced in Cuba’s Official Gazette last October went into force.

At none of the 195 official passport offices was there any kind of unusual crowd or fuss, as the disinformative blogger Yoani Sánchez tried to make it seem. This so-called reporter for the Spanish El País newspaper spent the morning at an immigration office in her neighborhood in Havana and was able to complete the paperwork to travel normally. As she herself acknowledged, she will only have to wait 15 days to collect her new passport; after all, it’s not Yoani’s first trip abroad.

What was definitely a lie was Yoani’s claim that at that hour of the morning there was a line of more than 70 people, with children clinging to their parents, all desperately seeking papers in order to leave Cuba. The Cuban journalist Manuel Lagarde posted photos of the place at his blog, Cambios en Cuba, along with photos of travel agencies and tour operators functioning normally in Havana, something that other media like BBC Mundo also reported- the offices were not mobbed by Cubans trying to leave the country.

The updating of the Cuban migration policy is not something left to chance; it’s a well-considered policy that comes at a very specific moment, following indications from Cuba’s president Raúl Castro in his speeches to the National Assembly, the Sixth Party Congress in 2011 and the National Party Conference in 2012. As Secretary Acosta also said, with these measures “Cuba is not seeking a stamp of approval” from anyone.

A report was drafted based on criteria supplied by a wide-ranging committee of specialists and leaders directed by General Abelardo Colomé Ibarra, that was later studied by the Cuban government, where the confluence of a series of factors supported an updating of the policy, among them, the existence of a change in the nature of Cuban emigration. As Colonel Lamberto Fraga, Second Chief at Cuba’s Immigration Directorate said, all policies and procedures were ready to be applied as the measures went into force last Monday.

But that Cuba should make it easier to leave and enter does not mean that it is leaving its national territory at the mercy of its enemies. There are two principles that should never be forgotten: The right of the revolution to defend itself and the right to safeguard the human capital that the revolution created.

How will this work in terms of travel permission for professionals in sensitive sectors like health and sports? It is a question that many have asked and will surely be answered in practice. For the moment, Cuban immigration authorities have made it clear that the people who may not travel, for reasons that are standard at the international level, are those with pending judicial processes, persons who must complete existing criminal sentences, persons who must perform military service (Military Service Law 75) and others who have something to do with questions of specific interest. A number of not entirely well-intentioned persons have asked if the so-called dissidents and opposition will be able to travel. The answer has been given. If they have no pending judicial problems, if they are not at the age of military service, etc., then they may travel, otherwise, no. That’s the law and there’s no reason for exceptions or particularities, so the staged media shows and campaigns are pointless, because Cuba will not be pressured.

As soon as the migration reform was announced in October of 2012, both Victoria Nuland and William Ostick, spokespersons for the U.S. State Department, tried to react with apparent indifference in order to avoid recognizing that the Cuban government had seized the initiative. Suddenly, having posed as champions of freedom to travel, they suggested pressuring third countries not to grant visas to Cubans, under the pretext that they might be used as “trampolines” in order to illegally enter the United States and take advantage of the so-called Cuban Adjustment Act.

Today it is truly indisputable that the United States is more restrictive about entrances to and exits from its territory, than Cuba. As a result, the press puppets in Miami have been unable to do anything other than repeat the arguments emanating from Washington. Unlike Nuland however, who recently stated that although the United States is not going to change its policy, the Cuban immigration reform seems positive and consistent with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the principle of family unity, Miami’s extreme right-wing, led by Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen, has dedicated itself to threatening in the local media to rescind the Cuban Adjustment Act as a way of punishing the Cubans.

The news has made Cuba watchers like Jaime Suchlicki appear to have totally lost it; he is claiming there will be a “slow-motion Mariel” exodus rather than a Camarioca of millions. Janisset Rivero of the so-called Democratic Directorate predicted lines several kilometers long at embassies in Havana. And Ninoska Pérez Castellón, having nothing much to say at all, preferred to ask her listeners, some of whom drove her crazy with their celebration of the Cuban migratory changes.

As my friend, the Cuban journalist Iroel Sánchez said, Cuba was ready for the immigration updates. Those who weren’t ready were that part of Miami that although it has yet to win, seems still not to have learned how to lose.

Edmundo García is the host of La Tarde se Mueve in Miami.

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