The US government had a simple statement for Cubans risking their lives to resist communism. Don’t come here.
“Allow me to be clear: If you take to the sea, you will not come to the United States,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said during a news conference last week.
Thousands of Cubans have taken to the streets in recent weeks with cries of “Libertad!” and “Down with the Dictatorship” in some of the largest protests in the nation’s history. The protests are a visible representation of a population rising up to confront their corrupt communist government that has left them destitute, hungry, and without access to basic medicine.
In response, their leaders have worked to shut down access to the internet, where many of the people are organizing, and blamed the US for the plight of their people. According to Amnesty International’s Americas director, Erika Guevara-Rosas, at least 140 people have been detained or disappeared following confrontations between state police and protestors.
Back in the US, massive demonstrations have taken place in cities across the country—from Miami and Los Angeles to Washington DC—as Americans seek to show their solidarity with those fighting for freedom just off our coast.
Hours of heavy rain on Tuesday did not put a damper on the third day of demonstrations that have erupted across South Florida in support of the uprising in Cuba. https://t.co/dSODl0mmnu— National Review (@NRO) July 14, 2021
Right now in Miami’s Little Havana. Several blocks shutdown. pic.twitter.com/vIbFbB0cBk— Brian Entin (@BrianEntin) July 14, 2021
But Mayorkas struck a very different tone in his statements. In no uncertain terms, the DHS Secretary told Cubans that those who manage to reach the US by sea will be apprehended by the US Coast Guard and taken back to their home countries. And in regards to those with political asylum requests he said, "If individuals make, establish a well-founded fear of persecution or torture, they are referred to third countries for resettlement," he continued. "They will not enter the United States."
It’s worth noting that Mayorkas himself is a Cuban immigrant who fled the country with his family in 1960 when he was just a year old.
The Policy Is What?
Many Americans operate under the belief that the US holds a welcoming policy to refugees and those seeking political asylum. Others were apparently still under the impression that the US had a “wet foot, dry foot” approach to Cuban immigrants who arrived by sea, which allowed Cubans who arrived without a visa to remain in the US as permanent residents.
Shouldn't they be able to claim asylum? I mean if ever there was a situation that fits into that category it would be what is happening in Cuba.— 'Nikki Whaley'-Barowski (@DFWradiogirlie) July 17, 2021
Yes, sort of. The US has a wet foot/dry foot policy. If a Cuban makes it to dry land, they can apply for asylum. If they are intercepted at sea, they are turned back. It is illegal to enter Cuban waters and assist emigrants.— Zap Rowsdower (@zap_rowsdower16) July 17, 2021
Much of this confusion can be blamed on the media. Though the Trump administration was seen as anti-immigrant (and rightfully so), the media painted Biden as much more sympathetic on the issue. In reality, though, the Biden and Trump policies are virtually the same. Not only that, they’re also carry-overs from previous administrations such as Obama and Bush as well.
It was actually former president Obama who ended the wet foot, dry foot policy that allowed Cubans to remain in the US.
“By taking this step, we are treating Cuban migrants the same way we treat migrants from other countries,” Obama wrote in a statement at the time.
How we treat other migrants, it’s important to note, is not great. It is extremely hard to immigrate to the US, contrary to popular belief, and that fact doesn’t change if you are a refugee or seeking asylum.
Very few migrants are even screened for humanitarian protection in the first place, and those that are have historically been sent to the notorious Guantanamo Bay Naval Base to undergo interviews with asylum officers. If they pass that interview, they are then referred for resettlement in third countries.
To be clear, domestic law does allow those who reach the country to request asylum, but even that has been largely suspended during the pandemic and most have been expelled anyways.
There are many reasons we should hope for a change in policy as it pertains to Cuban refugees—both humanitarian and economic.
Immigrants are always a net gain for a country. They increase the number of people working in a society, something most countries are in desperate need of as birth rates continue to decline. This larger number means they increase gains from trade and make the availability of goods and services more widespread, which in turn makes things cheaper. And, immigrants create new jobs. They open businesses and hire others, stimulating even more economic growth where they go.
And the Cuban population has especially proven industrious with many entrepreneurs among their midst. Miami, where the largest number of Cuban immigrants can be found in the US, enjoys one of the nation’s top rates of new business creation—much of it driven by Cubans. Entrepreneurs and celebrities like Ruth Behar, Desi Amaz, Gloria Estefan, Pitbull, Andy Garcia, Jeff Bezos’ dad, and Martha of Miami are all counted among the ranks of Cuban success stories in the states.
Not only do Cubans bring wealth and economic growth to the states, their departure continues to undermine a brutal, communist dictatorship, which is why American immigration is so condemned by the regime.
It is laughable for Cuban leaders to blame their country’s economic woes on the US government’s embargo, essentially admitting that communism can only work through access to free trade and free markets. That isn’t to say that the embargo is a just or rational policy, it is not. But it is also not the main cause of the Cuban people’s plight. However, they are not totally wrong that America has undermined their regime. Millions of people have fled communist Cuba for our freer shores, taking some of the best and brightest from the country.
There’s absolutely no reason freedom-loving Americans should not hope to see more Cubans arrive on our shores. Welcoming hard-working, freedom-loving people to our country should be a no-brainer. And anything we can peacefully do to break the oppression of communism should be on the table.
In The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith explained that free markets require free movement of labor. We don’t have to fight battles overseas with our ideological opponents. The free market is powerful enough to solve the problem and break the chains of oppression without violence if we simply allow it to work.