New rules would limit U.S. aid to new Cuban immigrants

Miami HeraldDecember 12, 2010 

MIAMI — A change in the way that some Cubans' applications for U.S. entry are handled could deny them a broad range of benefits when they arrive in the United States, according to Florida officials.

"If our understanding is correct, this change will have serious unanticipated consequences for the State of Florida and particularly for Miami-Dade County,'' the state Department of Children and Families wrote in a letter to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services has already identified more than 3,200 cases that will be affected, DCF Secretary George Sheldon wrote in the Nov. 22 letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

The shift would deny those Cubans the right to health screenings and immunizations, Medicaid and Refugee Medical Assistance as well as employment services, English language, vocational training and help with child care, according to the letter.

Cubans affected will then have to turn to financially strapped public hospitals and clinics for care, it added, and to overburdened state programs for employment and language assistance.

Hiram Ruiz, director of DCF refugee services in Miami-Dade, said the issue is being discussed by Homeland Security officials in Washington but there has been no official reply yet to the Sheldon letter.

A Homeland Security spokesperson said the change had been decided by the U.S. State Department. A State Department spokesman said consular service officials would have to look into the Florida letter.

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