The Biden Administration is making efforts to facilitate access to immigration benefits for eligible Cubans
The Biden Administration is implementing a series of immigration policy changes to deal with the recent spike in Cuban migration at the border. Between restarting consular operations in the US Embassy in La Havana after its virtual shutdown during the Trump Administration due to the so-called “Havana Syndrome” and resuming the Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program that was suspended in 2017, Cuban immigrants now have better options to enter the United States legally.
The following article is a rundown of immigration options for Cuban nationals and a quick summary of Cuban immigration policy in the United States.
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Why do Cuban immigrants get special treatment?
Bilateral relations between the United States and Cuba have been strained for more than half a decade, ever since the Cuban Revolution overthrew the US-backed military dictatorship that ruled the island and established a communist regime.
The US has historically imposed economic and diplomatic sanctions on Cuba while simultaneously fostering special immigration policies for Cubans who wished to emigrate to the United States. Eligible Cuban nationals can acquire Legal Permanent Resident Status after only one year in the United States.
US Army Boat in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Why is Cuban Immigration Policy changing?
US-Cuba relations improved during the Obama Administration, as the former president and Cuba’s Raul Castro strived to restore diplomatic ties and make travel and trade policies more flexible. However, the Trump Administration reversed most of the changes made during the Obama Era, thus setting bilateral relations back. The US Embassy in Havana saw its operations greatly diminished as a result of several factors as well.
The Biden Administration has publicly expressed concern over the rising numbers of Cuban immigrants who are crossing the border to claim asylum. The US government is also trying to improve bilateral relations with Cuba, and the island has proved open to negotiations so far.
Cuban Immigration policy in 2022
The following changes were made by the Biden Administration to provide an easier immigration pathway for eligible Cuban nationals and discourage illegal migration.
- Resuming Consular Activities in Havana: the US embassy in Havana is now scheduling consular interviews for Cuban nationals who are eligible for immigrant visas; they no longer have to travel to a third country to complete the process.
- Restarting the Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program: the program grants parole to eligible Cuban nationals with US citizen relatives and LPRS. Parolees can enter the country legally and request work authorization while they wait for an immigrant visa to be available.
Other Immigration Options for Cubans
Cubans who wish to migrate to the United States have several options to enter the country legally and obtain legal status.
Immediate relatives of US citizens (spouses, parents and unmarried children) can apply for immigrant visas without having to wait in line for a visa number to become available.
The Cuban Adjustment Act allows cubans to apply for a Green Card after just one year of continued physical presence in the United States if they are admissible in the country and were lawfully admitted or paroled; those who are deemed ineligible may apply for a waiver with the help of an attorney.
Cubans can also apply for asylum in the United States if they escaped the island because of persecution or human rights violations. Most Cubans claiming asylum are allowed to stay in the country while they wait for their cases to move forward. Deportations were highly unlikely until recently, as Cuba did not accept deportation flights from the US. This may change now that Cuba has agreed to accept deportation flights for the first time since 2020 as part of the deal with the US to expand immigration policy. Cubans applying for asylum or those with irregular immigration status should take this into account when pursuing their cases in court.