U.S. Rep. David Rivera said Tuesday he wants to sanction Cuban Americans who return to the island less than five years after they left, alleging that they are abusing a loophole in the Cuban Adjustment Act and helping the country’s communist system.
The South Florida Republican submitted a bill on Aug. 1 to deal with the growing complaint that Cubans benefit from the CAA as refuge-seekers but then return to the island just to visit relatives or even to vacation.
Approved in 1966 for the tens of thousands of Cubans who were fleeing the communist government at the height of the Cold War, the CAA offers U.S. residency 366 days after arrival and other benefits. Citizens of no other country receive such benefits.
“The original intent of the CAA was to provide status to Cuban refugees because they were not able to return to Cuba,” Rivera told El Nuevo Herald. “That political situation remains the same today, with a communist totalitarian dictatorship in power.”
“We have to do something about those who avail themselves of an act designed to protect them from persecution and then travel back to the persecuting country in an obvious abuse of the law,” he added.
Criticism of the CAA has been building in recent years around the United States and even among South Florida’s older Cuban exile community, as growing numbers of Cuban arrivals argue that they left the island for economic rather than political reasons.
About 300,000 Cuban-Americans visited the island in 2010, and the Raúl Castro government has said it is reviewing migration regulations — a possible hint that more will be allowed to return in order to help boost the island’s economy.
“The Castro dictatorship is hoping for a lifesaver with increased travel,” Rivera said. “This bill will hopefully throw it an anchor.”
Rivera’s bill, HR2771, requires the Department of Homeland Security to rescind the adjusted state of Cubans who return to the island before they obtain their U.S. citizenship. Cubans generally need up to five years to become U.S. citizens.
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