The bill against Cuban immigrants: the baby out with the bathwater
In typically political style, the bill is called the "Employment Opportunities for Cuban Immigrants Law," but has little to do directly with employment, and, in terms of opportunities, it actually proposes to restrict them. The bill has been brought by Republican Representative Carlos Curbelo before the US Congress in order to cancel Cuban immigrants' automatic access to certain federal aid programs.
The proposal is back in the news again and a subject of controversy in Miami right now, as it already has 125 supporters in the House of Representatives, and the backing of all the Cuban-American representatives, in addition to that of the chairmen of some key House committees. Curbelo has stated that he harbors no doubts that it will be approved by a bipartisan majority.
Although well known, it is worth noting that the purpose of this bill is to prevent our compatriots who emigrate to the United States under the terms of the Cuban Adjustment Act from receiving food stamps, temporary Medicaid coverage, access to the resettlement program, and Social Security unless they are able to demonstrate that they are, in fact, victims of political persecution. In such cases it also proposes to restrict their visits to Cuba, except in the event of emergencies.
Curbelo's arguments (and those wielded by Miami’s supporters of his proposal, of which there are many) are also well known, having been propagated broadly and effectively. In essence, it is a response to those Cubans (again, there being many) who, after receiving aid intended for those in political exile, seize the opportunity to turn around and go back to the Island, whether for long stays or brief but very frequent ones on weekends, with their kin being maintained by US taxpayers.
In short, something is definitely wrong with the implementation of the Cuban Adjustment Act. However, in view of the fact that the law itself is fair and exemplary in its civilized intentions, perhaps it is not necessary to tear it up just to prevent a portion of its beneficiaries (only part, not all) from taking unfair advantage of it. It would be more practical and easier to insist that it be applied better.
Political posturing and election campaigns plans aside, it seems that Carlos Curbelo and his followers are throwing out the proverbial baby with the bathwater.
But this is an issue that has also been discussed broadly and at length, and with the passion that characterizes our debates. Thus, perhaps everything has been said already. If anything, maybe some slight reflection would be in order, not necessarily related to Curbelo's proposal, but rather something more profound and complex: the reality on the ground in Cuban and the dramatic circumstances that have spawned it.
Just as what we now call our "historic exiles" were misunderstood, today, above the surface, and recognizing the evident differences, Cuba's new migrants are also misconstrued. Two extremes converge in this situation. Apparently both are ignoring the essence of the phenomenon: namely, that these new immigrants are an absolute product of fidelismo and that, due to their many ensuing deficiencies – of conscience, civility, mind and spirit – suffer from acute “politicophobia.”
That is, they do not want to hear about anything other than solutions or remedies meeting their most basic material needs. Life, to put it one way, has not given them the opportunity to think about anything else, or to look any further ahead. They suffer from a congenital apathy, deliberately and calculatingly instilled in them by the system of a country that did not realize that its Frankensteins might one day stand and walk on their own legs.
There are more than a few exceptions, but in general they find politics an oppressive, exhausting and useless burden. This is especially true of young people. As they were never trained or treated like ordinary citizens, but rather as slaves, they cannot conceive of wasting time on matters of public interest. They do not think (ideologically, or in almost any other way) because they have been taught from childhood that it is easier to let others think for them. It's that simple.
They are victims of a ruthless process of robotization that has rendered them innocent by emptying them from the inside, which explains (though it does not necessarily justify) that kind of chronic and pervasive idiocy they exhibit today; not an irremediable vice, as their detractors contend, but a result of their inability, as innocent androids, to operate outside the parameters of a spoon-fed program.
I think it is wrong to think that these poor people have not suffered as much pain and frustration as Cuba's "historic" exiles. In any case, their frustrations and travails are different, but of the same origin, and have cost them just as much. It is even possible to cite many examples of those who have suffered even more severely. In fact, they have always suffered, and many suffer still, what a great poet described as the worst of human sins: to be unhappy. They have not been allowed, even once, to know true happiness.
Thus, there is nothing wrong with demanding that they play by the rules when they enter a free and generous country like the US. But perhaps it would behoove us not to lose sight of who they are and where they come from – a luxury that we can afford as citizens of one of the most democratic countries in the world.