Notes on Cuban migration and the Cuban Adjustment Act

In 1965, U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson's administration negotiated an agreement with the Cuban government resulting in the first of what were called "Freedom Flights" in the United States. As the MIAMI HERALD, no friend of the Cuban Revolution commented, "That now-historic flight is credited with opening the floodgates to the first continuous, legal wave of Cuban refugees, a steady flow that would change Miami and help build up Little Havana and the Cuban exile community.

The twice-a-week flights ended in 1973." In the late 1970s, Bernardo Benes, a Jewish Cuban-American exile and strong opponent of the Cuban government, operating with the cooperation and under the supervision of the U.S. government, met and negotiated the release of 3500 Cubans who soon found their way to the United States, with no difficulty. This shows it's been possible for the United States to negotiate with the Cuban government the peaceful, uneventful departure of large numbers of Cubans to the United States. So why do we regularly read, in the Miami media, heart-rending and tragic stories of desperate Cubans being returned to Cuba by the United States government? We ALSO read about large numbers of other Cubans who arrive, as if by magic, on U.S. soil, and are made welcome by the people in charge of the borders of the United States of America. Some additional material about Cuban migration to the United States can be found at the bottom of this page. I'll try to update it as new materials become available..

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Rethinking the Cuba perk
Special immigration status draws fire [2013 EDITORIAL]

We have no problem with allowing Cuban-Americans to travel back and forth to Cuba. Congress ought to kill the travel ban entirely, so that all Americans can visit the island. Tourists from other countries have been flocking to "terrorist" Cuba for years.
But it's hard to argue that Cubans who can come and go as they please are in need of special considerations normally reserved for victims of political repression. One does not flee communism only to return repeatedly with a suitcase full of money and merchandise for the family.,0,459966.story

U.S.-Cuba Policy: A Boon for Cuban-American Entrepreneurs
by Saul Landau and Nelson Valdes (2013)
Cuban-Americans, particularly from south Florida, now export goods and remittances to relatives and friends while importing profits from sales made to fellow Cubans in Cuba, giving them an advantage denied to the rest of the country.

Washington pundits attribute superhuman strength to the anti-Castro lobby; thus no President would attempt to lift the trade and travel embargoes on the island. Yet Cuban-Americans trade with and travel to Cuba freely on a daily basis. The "embargo" applies to everyone except Cuban-Americans.
Camouflaged by ubiquitous anti-Castro rhetoric, the Cuban-American entrepreneurs have manufactured a lucrative business with the island, regulated by the very government they pretend to hate. The rightwing congressional representatives pretend to fight for every law to punish the "Castro regime" while in practice turn a dead eye to the growing trade that helps Florida's and Cuba's economy. Preserve the embargo, but make an exception for Cuban Americans.

By recognizing the facts about this trade, the White House might become inspired to lift the embargo -- a move to benefit all Americans. U.S. government revenue would grow from opening trade and travel with Cuba. In the process we might also regain a missing piece of U.S. sovereignty!

The Paradoxes of Cuban Immigration
by Fernando Ravsberg
The opening of Cuba immigration policy could be a mortal blow to the Cuban Adjustment Act, the US law that grants residency to all Cubans who step onto American soil, under the assumption that they fled communism.

Hundreds of thousands of economic emigrants from the island settled in the US, primarily in Miami, thanks to this legislation that assumes all of them were politically persecuted, even though many of them return to Cuba every year on vacation.

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

Following the recent reform of Cuba' migration policy, the island's inhabitants will no longer be required to obtain permission to travel abroad from the authorities. Cubans may also remain out of the country for twenty-four consecutive months and even extend their stay should they wish. (November 2012)

Rep. David Rivera, R-Fla., had a hearing Thursday on his proposed changes to the Cuban Adjustment Act. The Miami lawmaker wants to change the law to prohibit Cubans who claim political asylum in the United States from returning to the island nation. The proposal would revoke the residency status of any Cuban national who returns to Cuba after receiving political asylum and residency in the United States under the Cuban Adjustment Act. 

Rafters: The return trip Wednesday, 22 December 2010 12:37
By Jesús Arboleya Cervera 

Wall Street Journal:
U.S. Offers Refuge to Cubans, Even if they're Not from Cuba (2009) 

AP: Fewer Cubans make crossing to Fla; economy cited (August 2009) 

Cubans enter United States in large numbers (August 2007),0,1623860,print.column 

Cuban Migrants Confront Harsher U.S. Tactics at Sea (Wall Street Journal) 

Haitians Without Adjustment Act (Granma) 

Does the US have a Generous Refugee Policy? 

For asylum seekers, a fickle system

Tom Miller, author of Trading with the Enemy:
Immigrants just want to be treated like Cubans.

Author Tom Miller comments on how organizers of the immigration protests are unknowingly asking to be treated like Cubans who manage to reach the U.S. (Broadcast on NPR's "Latino USA" May 5-11, 2006)

Author Tom Miller comments on how organizers of the immigration protests are unknowingly asking to be treated like Cubans who manage to reach the U.S. Listen in MP3 Format 

TRANSCRIPT OF Tom Miller's comments: 

Here the entire 30-minute program: [no longer works. sorry!]

Immigration debate misses big exception 

March 30, 2006 (see below for complete text)  (print formatted) 

The Cuban Adustment Act and Immigration Policies (undated)

Havana. April 24, 2006
Granma looks at the different kinds of Cubans who've left the island: 

April 4, 2006

A CubaNews translation. Edited by Walter Lippmann

Cuban Adjustment Act Strikes Again (April 15, 2006)

But where are the Cubans?

U.S.-based Cubans were nowhere to be found. It was only too obvious. Unlike hundreds of thousands of Hispanics of various origins who took to the streets in many cities across the country in mass protest demonstrations to demand an immigration law allowing them to become legal residents here, the Cubans stayed at home, unconcerned about other people’s problems as if the privileges they enjoy under the so-called "Cuban Adjustment Act" makes them better than the other 37 million Hispanic – both legals and illegals – living in the United States.

Let us not claim that we have been deceived. All things considered, it is nobody’s secret that there is no love lost between those Cubans who call themselves "political exiles" and the millions of Hispanics from other nations of this continent who also live in the United States. And rightly so, since Cubans here are seen as "pro-Yankee, overbearing" persons who look down on the rest of Latin Americans and contemptuously label them as "natives", whereas they, the Cubans, believe they are more American than the Americans themselves – the voice of their master, like the little dog in the RCA Victor logo –, at all times willing to do the dirty work indicated by the U.S. government of the moment in exchange for those perks they boast as the Empire’s putative children.

All in all, such widely held opinion about us Cubans is unfair taking into account there are certainly many Cubans, perhaps the exception that confirms the rule, who provide manifest solidarity with the just cause of those millions of Latin Americans who are now demanding their right to work and live in peace with their families in this nation of immigrants. For instance, we in the Alianza Martiana have always been in the front line to defend the civil rights of every Latin American living in the U.S., barring none. Venezuelans, Cubans, Peruvians, Colombians, Nicaraguans, Haitians, Mexicans, Argentineans, Ecuadorians, Bolivians, Panamanians, Dominicans, Chileans and Caribbean citizens, in two words, Americans all, have brought our flags together as often as duty has called to join our brothers and sisters from the Continent south of Rio Grande.

So where are the Cubans who live here, now when the streets are crowded with Hispanics demanding justice for their cause? Well, here we are. True, there are not many of us different to those self-proclaimed ‘children of the Empire’. But we’re another class of Cubans, in sufficient numbers to cry out loud, paraphrasing José Martí, that when there many men without honor, there are others who have the honor of many men. Hear me, Latin Americans fighting for a place under the sun of the American nation, here in the United States there are Cubans by your side!

(*) President of Alianza Martiana in Miami

Cuba and Emigration: The Myth of Refugees
By Istvan Ojeda Bello
Periodico 26 (Las Tunas, Cuba)
February 16, 2006 

Against all odds, France is hardening its laws to prevent Cubans from requesting asylum in that country. But something doesn't quite fit. Europe, as the self-proclaimed archetype for protecting the rights of "refugees," always welcomes those who are trying to escape persecution, and Cubans are supposedly "desperate" to flee the island.

Nonetheless, a newswire from France's AFP news agency leaves no doubt:

"The National Association of Borders for Foreigners on February 8 denounced the policy of France's Interior Ministry that discreetly but firmly "closes the door" on Cubans seeking asylum.

As of January 2006, Cubans passing through transit areas in French airports must have a special visa allowing them to be in those areas.

In the same report, AFP makes it clear that these visas are difficult to obtain and that travelers will not be allowed to board planes without receiving these visas in advance.

By adopting this measure, France places Cubans among a group of 30 foreign nationalities that must obtain this type of visa to travel to a French airport.

This clearly shows that France does not regard the tired old equation of "Cuban emigrant = Cuban refugee." No matter how you look at it, it is evident that Jacques Chirac's government has finally discovered what has always been patently obvious.

From Pro-Batista Tycoons to Rafters and Mariel Boat People

The meaning of the term "Cuban emigration" has changed in the course of the history of Cuba-US relations. Over the years, the Cuban community in the United States has changed. At first Cuban emigrants were made up of landowners, businesspeople, politicians from the Fulgencio Batista dictatorship and nearly 3,000 war criminals that fled the island after the dictatorship was overthrown by Fidel Castro. Over time this has changed to emigrants who go the United States for a variety of reasons.

The year 1980 marked a turning point in this respect, when 125,000 Cubans, usually called "Marielitos" in reference to the fact that they emigrated by way of boats that came from the US to pick them up at the Mariel port in western Cuba. Their nickname is a reminder to American society that they were considered different from their predecessors. The same happened with the "rafters," that is, those who came to the US by homemade rafts after 1994.

After the triumph of the Cuban revolution, the position of several US administrations has been inconsistent with the traditional manner with which the rest of Latin American communities in the United States have been treated.

While for Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, and especially Mexicans and Haitians, Washington's laws have increasingly meant fewer possibilities to integrate into American society, for Cubans the policy has been quite different.

During the 1960s, the United States spent over a billion dollars on the Cuban Refugee Program, which sought to help settle, find jobs, and cover the expenses of any Cuban who arrived in that country complaining about socialism. Such a program far outstripped the opportunities which Polish, Hungarians, and other citizens from Eastern European countries enjoyed during the Cold War period.

Since 1966, by virtue of the Cuban Adjustment Act, any Cuba who arrives on US soil is eligible for permanent residency status in that country, even though they may have hijacked an airplane or boat to achieve their objective; even if this costs the lives of fellow passengers or crew members. Prior to the skyjacking of airliners in the 1970s by radical Muslim groups, several Cuban planes had been forced to land in the United States. However, while the Islamic groups were described as "terrorists," the Cubans were termed "refugees."

According to the US Department of Homeland Security, Cuba has gone from the second step in the ladder of countries that send emigrants to the United States to the tenth position by 2003, along with smaller countries such as Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and El Salvador. Despite that fact, the US Small Business Administration has for years preferred to finance ventures by Cubans over other immigrant minorities,

Therefore, the Cuban Refugee Program, the Cuban Adjustment Act, and the "goodwill" of small-business sponsors added to the millions dollars stolen from the island by the first and true exiles has not only contributed to the myth of the Cuban "refugees," but also to that of a supposed "prosperity" of the Cuban community in the United States.

Although the statistics speak for themselves, the migration issue between Cuba and the United States continues to be in the hands of ultra-right-wing Cuba-Americans and the Neo-Conservatives, who are trying to provoke a break in the migratory agreement adopted during Clinton's administration. This had been the only constructive advance made to achieve an orderly and safe flow of people between the two countries.

If the agreements are still in place, it is because Havana has shown itself to have the patience of Job, because US authorities continue to admit all criminals who hijack Cuban aircraft or give slaps on the hands to those involved in the lucrative and growing business of human trafficking into the United States. Those actions have been geared to provoke a migratory crisis in order to justify a military invasion of the island

The myth of the refugees was forged to support the counter-revolutionary interest of discrediting the Cuban socialist model and was strengthened by the application of strategies aimed at straining US-Cuba relations.


Washington's Weapon to Create a Migratory Crisis
By Andres Gomez, Director of Areitodigital
AIN, February 16, 2006

One of the consistent policies of Washington's aggression against Cuba has been promoting legal and illegal emigration from the island to the United States.

Since November 1966, 39 years ago, the Cuban Adjustment Act has been the weapon by which the US has achieved this destabilizing policy. It has not only been used to steal Cuba's scientists, professionals, technicians and other skilled individuals --especially in the early years of the Revolution--, but it has also served as a reserve weapon to provoke a migratory crisis to justify an eventual US military aggression.

The Cuban Adjustment Act provides automatic permanent residency for almost all Cubans arriving legally or illegally after one year and one day in the US.

No immigrant from any other nation has this privilege.

At present, as always in the past, one of the main purposes of this policy has been to attract illegal immigration from Cuba to use it in the propaganda war against the Revolution.

The consequences of the illegal migration for those Cubans that attempt to reach the US is of little concern, much less, for those that criminally risk the lives of their small children in crossing the dangerous sea.

At the end of the fiscal year which ended last September 30th, the US Coast Guard Service reported having intercepted 2,712 Cubans at sea, over double the 1,225 reported in 2004.

The figure for 2005 is the third highest of Cubans intercepted in the Florida straights during the last 12 years. The highest had been reported in 1993 with 3,656 and 1994 when over 30,000 Cubans emigrated illegally due to the so called migratory crisis between the two countries.

The 1994 and 1995 migratory accords signed between Havana and Washington, and which emerged due to the crisis in August 1994, are still in effect. These, force the US to return all those intercepted at sea by US authorities to Cuba, except the cases in which political persecution could be proven to justify exile in the United States.

The accords were designed to discourage those that would consider emigrating illegally by sea. But the Bush administration has deliberately failed to comply with Washington's part of the agreements. To the contrary, the White House has used it to provoke more illegally departures from the island.

Although the Coast Guard says that only 2.5 percent of the Cubans intercepted are granted political asylum, the public understanding, the public perception in Cuba and among the Cuban community in Miami is not the same.

And since that is not the perception, more and more people continue to illegally leave the island by sea causing fatal consequences.

According to studies carried out by Cuban experts on the island, it is estimated that at least 15 percent of those that attempt to cross the sea die before reaching the US.

The figures given by the Coast Guard and by the Miami press are very different, reporting only 39 confirmed deaths during the 2005 fiscal year. However, during one regrettable incident alone, in August of last year, 31 passengers on board a 28-foot speed boat leaving Matanzas were declared missing.

The US Coast Guard reported that the interceptions in high seas have been characterized as violent confrontations with authorities and by the deaths of immigrants.

According to the same authorities, the Cubans are taken to the US on speed boats by a network of criminals specialized in human trafficking, former drug traffickers, based in southern Florida which now find contraband of humans more lucrative than drugs.

These criminals charge 8 to 12 thousand dollars per person, overcrowding the small vessels. The majority of those that attempt to emigrate are individuals that have relatives in the United States, others who do not qualify to be considered as legal immigrants in the US, or those who do not want to wait their turn in the annual quota, assigned under the migratory treaties for legal immigrants.

As part of the systematic public campaign against Cuba, a spokesperson from the State Department recently said that the new wave of illegal Cuban immigrants is due to the increase of the regime's repressive policies and the collapse of the Cuban economy.

Meanwhile, according to official figures, during the 2005 fiscal year, 3,612 Dominicans were picked up at high seas attempting to illegally reach the US (900 more than Cubans intercepted) and in 2004, 3,229 Haitians were also picked up (2,000 more than the 1,225 Cubans that fiscal year).

The Brazilian daily O Globo recently published an article on illegal immigrants in the US, quoting official sources, pointing out that during the first semester of 2005, 27,396 Brazilians were stopped from illegally crossing US borders, an average of 4,556 per month and 152 a day. In 2004, a total of 1,160,000 foreigners, were stopped by attempting to illegally enter the US, 93 percent of them (close to 1,080,000) were Mexicans.

It would be important to remind the US State Department that none of those undocumented immigrants has a bit of socialism in their system; because they are from client states of the US, whose economies cannot collapse because they have always been in a state of ruin; and as is publicly known, that all those nations suffer cruel repressive policies whose victims are counted by the thousands per year. None of these citizens can receive the benefits of the Cuban Adjustment Act if they successfully enter the US illegally. On the contrary, they are persecuted.

This despicable policy that uses Cubans, and above all their children, as bait must come to an end.

The Cuban Adjustment Act should be repealed as well as an increase made in the number of visas for those Cubans that want to emigrate legally and comply with the requirements demanded by US regulations, thus providing a safe and legal emigration for them and their children. The US should also end the genocidal policy of blockade and other aggressions and instead respect the rights of the Cuban people to live and develop in peace.

Date: Thu Feb 16, 2006 9:36 am
Subject: Re: [CubaNews] IMPORTANT -
Cuba and Emigration: The Myth of Refugees

These are both very valuable articles, with two caveats:

1. The first article talks about Puerto Ricans, Mexicans etc. not getting help in integrating into US economy and society. This is true, but could give the impression that Puerto Ricans are an immigrant group denied entry to the US. In fact, Puerto Rico as a country has trouble GETTING AWAY from the US. Poor Puerto Ricans are not helped to integrate into US society for the same reason that poor African-Americans have such trouble. Poor Mexicans, Dominicans, Haitians, Salvadorans etc are un-integrated in many cases because they are non-citizens, often without legal papers to be in the country. In this respect, they are legally much worse off than the Puerto Ricans.

2. Andres's statement that undocumented immigrants to the US from countries other than Cuba don't have socialist bones in their bodies is not necessarily, literally true (though it is true that the countries from which they come are hardly socialist, so the point Andres is making is correct). But it is certainly true that even being percieved as having socialist or communist associations will prevent you from immigrating to the US legally.

When a few years ago there was some legislation (I forget which) affecting the extension of refugee status to Nicaraguans living irregularly in the United States, the same status was denied to the hundreds of thousands of Salvadorans and Guatemalans who found themselves in the same boat.

In explaining this, Cuban-American ultra-right Congresscreatures Ileana Ros-Lehtinin and Lincoln Diaz Balart were gauche enough to openly state that they did not want Salvadorans and Central Americans to get such status because the fact that they originally came here fleeing right wing, US supported dictatorships proves they are not trustworthy, whereas Nicaraguans "fleeing" from the left wing Sandinista government were obviously better material for citizenship.

This is simply an extension of the attitude toward Cubans. By the way, this led to the current crisis in the Salvadoran community here in which there are 220,000 Salvadorans living in the United States under "Temporary Protected Status", about to be terminated (in September) and perhaps folded into President Bush's horrible "guest worker" program.

These Salvadorans had in many cases come here fleeing the wars and dictatorships of the 1980s and early 1990s, had NOT been able to get refugee status or political asylum because of the above mentioned political considerations, and only were given this Temporary Protected Status after implorations by the Salvadoran government subsequent to an earthquake which destroyed much housing and infrastructure in El Salvador.

The quid pro-quo of this is that El Salvador agrees to join CAFTA and send troops to the war in Iraq. Last year, when it seemed that leftist candidate Shafik Handal might win the Salvadoran presidential elections, the United States put out the word that if that happened, the US might end the Temporary Protected Status and deport all 220,000 Salvadorans covered by it.

This would have been a double disaster for El Salvador because its economy could not absorb the return of so many people needing jobs, and because it would severely cut back the remittances Salvadorans in the US send back to their families in El Salvador.

Whether because of these threats or not, right wing candidate Antonio Saca won the presidency, and has just announced that he is sending more Salvadoran troops to Iraq. If somewhat left of center candidate for the Mexican presidency (election July 2) Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador continues to lead in the polls, I would not be surprised to hear the US making threats concerning Mexican immigrants also.

Emile Schepers
Salim Lamrani: The Case of the False Exiles:

The Freedom Fliers, Forty Years Later (February 2006)

Posted on Sat, Feb. 18, 2006

The freedom fliers, 40 years later

First passenger list now a piece of history

José Anorga has taken many flights in his 67 years. But only one dramatically changed his life: the one he took Dec. 1, 1965.

Anorga was onboard the inaugural Freedom Flight from Cuba to Miami -- a flight that launched a U.S.-sponsored airlift that would give a new life in exile to some 260,000 refugees.

''You never forget a flight that takes you away from your country. That's a sad day,'' said Anorga, of Hollywood, who made the journey on that Pan American plane with his pregnant wife, Rebeca, and their infant daughter. ``From then on, our lives were different.''

That now-historic flight is credited with opening the floodgates to the first continuous, legal wave of Cuban refugees, a steady flow that would change Miami and help build up Little Havana and the Cuban exile community. The twice-a-week flights ended in 1973.

Now, a piece of that exodus has resurfaced, offering a glimpse of the times.

This month, the Historical Museum of Southern Florida acquired the passenger list for that first Freedom Flight. An anonymous donor made the gift.

''Its historical value is wonderful,'' said Dawn Hugh, the museum's archives manager, of the donation. ``We're very happy to get it.''

The Freedom Flights were the result of a deal struck by President Lyndon B. Johnson with Cuba in late 1965 to end an illegal boatlift from the Cuban port of Camarioca.

Don't escape Fidel Castro on boats, come on planes, the U.S. told the Cubans. And they did.

That first list of freedom fliers had 82 names, although only 75 landed at Miami International Airport that chilly Wednesday morning in December.

News accounts show the refugees wearing their Sunday best and carrying all their worldly belongings in suitcases. As they climbed out of the plane, they were engulfed by a sea of relatives and reporters. Yellow buses then took them to Opa-locka Airport for processing.

The existence of such a list leads to the question: What became of that first group of Cubans? How did they fare in the U.S.?

The Anorgas and the other Cubans were hurled into a foreign country with little warning. Anorga said he was notified by Cuban militia that he was leaving the night before he flew out. ``One day I had my life there, the next I was here.''

The passenger list now at the museum was part of a news release issued by the U.S. Cuban Refugee Center, housed at the Freedom Tower in downtown Miami. The eight-page release groups the refugees into family units, gives their year of birth and the name and address of the relative in the U.S. who would take them in.

Anorga remained in Miami with his brother. He landed a job at a Hialeah factory, struggled, raised a family and is now retired. He still treasures a photograph of his arrival at MIA that appeared in a magazine. ''Me and my wife, we look so young,'' he said.

Other refugees that day were headed for places like New Jersey, California and Illinois to reunite with relatives.

In honor of the 40th anniversary of the first Freedom Flight, The Miami Herald is trying to locate others who were on board Flight #1.

Today, The Miami Herald is publishing the names and year of birth of the refugees on Flight #1 as they appeared on the embarkation list. The entire document can be viewed at under Today's Extras.

If you were on board that flight or know someone on the list, contact Luisa Yanez at or at 305-376-4627.


Immigration debate misses big exception

An elephant-sized issue is being avoided amid the rallies and emotional debates about illegal immigration currently preoccupying Americans.

If you're Mexican, you take your chances and cross through the deadly desert of the 2,000-mile border separating your country from the United States. If you're from Haiti, your best hope is that the Coast Guard gets so absorbed in processing other refugees that you can escape before the rifles come out and they start target practicing on your shabby dinghy.

But, if you're from Cuba and can get your foot on American soil, your citizenship is virtually instantaneous.

This discriminatory policy goes back to the 1960s when Fidel Castro's communist rise to power was an embarrassing and threatening affront to the American way of life. The 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act gave legal residency to hundreds of thousands of mostly upper-class and educated Cubans who fled the land and power grab of Castro's regime. In 1980 Castro willingly shipped over more. Most were criminals, unskilled workers or mentally ill. Fearing the kind of crush that now undergirds the arguments of immigration opponents, the Clinton Administration came up with the current "wet foot/dry foot" policy after thousands of Cubans begin arriving on crude rafts, boats and inner tubes in the 1990s. More than 37,000 Cubans were rescued from the Atlantic Ocean. A 1994 policy only turns back those who couldn't make it to dry land.

Since last week more than half a million illegal immigrants and supporters demonstrated against a U.S. House bill that sets severe restrictions on access to citizenship and harsh penalties for employers, clergy and even doctors who offer assistance to illegal immigrants.

Los Angeles, Chicago, Denver, Phoenix and Milwaukee saw flag-waving throngs from most Latin American countries, but in southern Florida, where the Cuban community predominates, protests were sparse. An immigration activist told a local newspaper he was surprised that only about 500 protesters gathered outside Miami's federal immigration headquarters last Thursday. Nearly all were Haitians.

Local and national Latinos privately acknowledge the awe that Cubans. They see how a citizenship guarantee helps the social and political influence of a culture to gain dominance. From the California farm worker to the Colorado firefighter and New Mexico roofer, you hear the admiration for Cuban-American's ability to pull off what other countries have been unable to provide.

But there is also a silent confusion and some even say resentment at such privilege. Non-Cubans are surviving among the shadowy communities of illegal work forces. This reality makes avoiding deportation a priority over picking a fight about the favoritism your cultural brothers and sisters enjoy.

Despite the legislative rancor, it's clear that a new immigration law will be fashioned before the mid-term elections. The business community will likely get its way on guest worker permits, while hardliners will get some secure-border-measure for the Minuteman militia to test. Driver's licenses and English-language requirements seem possible.

Still, it will be a serious mistake for our political leaders to ignore the special status that a small percentage of the Latino population enjoys.

Such is the result of the "dry feet/wet feet" policy, rooted in the outdated 1966 act. It goes against what we tell fleeing masses about American democracy. At best it insures the full benefit of citizenship to a desperate few. At worst, it smacks of state-sanctioned, ethnic prejudice creating a caste system among Latinos and other wannabe citizens.

Contact Rhonda B. Graham, a News Journal editorial writer, at  .

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useful reading:
Secret Missions to Cuba: Fidel Castro, Bernardo Benes,
and Cuban Miami
, by Robert M. Levine (New York, Palgrave, 2001)