This week, U.S. Representatives Joe Garcia and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen shared their views on the Obama Administration’s Cuba policy and the fate of the Cuban Adjustment Act to Cuba news outlets. One offered a fresh, common sense take on the issues, the other defended the same tired policies that have failed for 54 years. Translations by yours truly.
Joe on Obama’s Cuba policy:
[President Obama should] work to expand the breadth of [Cuban] civil society, and not only from a political standpoint. The same should apply to the [Cuban] economy, from the politician to the hairdresser, and everything that falls in between. The more civil society there is, the more political space there will be. We must continue to find areas where we can have that impact.
The State Department has had a tendency to give carte blanche to dictatorships and those who oppress human rights…They have taken the same approach with the Castro regime through “cultural exchanges” and [the President's] efforts to ease restrictions on travel and remittances to Cuba. These efforts produce nothing for America and give these regimes the time and money to continue the oppression of their people.
Joe on the Cuban Adjustment Act:
The Cuban Adjustment Act has merit. When the doors close on you in your own country, the opportunity to integrate into the most powerful nation on Earth is a great benefit. So I favor it. I imagine it will be hard to defend, precisely because of arguments by some Cuban-Americans against their own people. As long as the situation in Cuba remains the same, I’ll be the first to advocate it. When that situation changes, then we’ll need to recalibrate.
I also put forth the argument, not of my political opponents, but of others have told me: “I want my sister to come here, where my wife has her son, where I have my son, and because of the Cuban Adjustment Act the U.S. Embassy does not give visas to people under 60 or 55 years of age who are not married.” That creates a problem for those who want to have more contact with their families. I understand that and it will be one of the questions our community will have to discuss in the long term.
Yes, there are abuses of the Cuban Adjustment Act, as the food stamp program, the medicare … abuses there, but because someone steal a grapefruit from a market, you do not you arrest everybody who eat grapefruit. Everything is made in good faith can be a victim of bad. That does not mean that good faith is lost. I think Cuban Adjustment Act has impacted economic, social and cultural development has created a miracle in this country, in terms of the success of the Cuban American community. The Act integrates Cuban society almost immediately, be productive and be imposed part of the community solution.
Yes, there have been abuses of the Cuban Adjustment Act, as there have been with the food stamp program, medicare. There are abuses, but just because someone steals a grapefruit in a market, you don’t arrest everyone who eats grapefruit. Everything done in good faith can be a victim of bad. That does not mean that good faith is lost. I think the Cuban Adjustment Act has had an economic, social and cultural impact that has created a miracle in this country, in terms of the success of the Cuban-American community. The Act integrates Cubans to American society almost immediately, and promotes productivity and becoming contributor to the community.
Yes, I am in favor of changing the Cuban Adjustment Act so that those who use this singular and unique benefit that is solely for Cuban nationals, are not able to return to Cuba to visit. We cannot support that someone can be prosecuted for political reasons in Cuba and at the same time go back to visit. This is a regime that flagrantly abuses human rights and we must help those who seek democracy, freedom and justice.
Joe on the embargo:
I imagine [that it will stay in place during the next four years]. So far, the Administration has not shown any interest in lifting the embargo. It is codified [by Congress], but I think the president does have possibilities in some areas. I imagine he will continue to look for opportunities to continue the policy that began four years ago, which has been successful. I imagine that he will continue experimenting and looking for ways to continue that path.
Ileana didn’t address the embargo in her interview, but her stance, which has remained defiantly rigid since the Cold War, is well known. With regard to her position on to the Cuban Adjustment Act, I must say there is something deeply ugly about closing the door on fellow Cubans who are fleeing the same regime your parents fled as a child, even if the reasons for leaving -political or economic- are different.