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“Cuban Migrants Get Unfair Advantage Over Other Latinos”: The Benevolence Of The Law Made Sense In Decades Past

The Cold War is over, but it still deeply distorts U.S. immigration policy.

Consider the bizarre situation at our southern border. A wave of migrants is expected to appear there, hoping for safe passage into the U.S. and an expedited path to legal status and eventually full citizenship. They will get it.

These lucky migrants won’t be Mexicans fleeing drug cartels. They won’t be Hondurans, who must endure the world’s highest murder rate. And they won’t be citizens of El Salvador, where the Peace Corps just suspended operations due to the increasing violence.

No, we deport those people.

They will be Cubans. In recent months, increasing numbers of Cubans have been leaving their island country, flying to Ecuador first and then traveling northward through Central America. They wish to migrate to the U.S., fearful that thawing diplomatic relations will end the special treatment that Cubans who leave the island have long received.

That special treatment needs to end.

The hypocrisy that is embedded in U.S. immigration law will be on full display as the Cubans begin arriving, which could happen within the next few weeks.

Since 1966, the Cuban Adjustment Act has given Cuban people an extraordinary advantage over other migrants wishing to enter the U.S. The law was originally intended as a political and humanitarian reply to communism and the oppression of Fidel Castro. No proof that a person has suffered persecution. Where he or she arrives from is enough.

When people attempt to arrive through the Florida Straits, the policy that developed was dubbed “wet foot, dry foot.” If a Cuban can get one foot on dry U.S. soil, they can stay and are offered permanent legal status in a year and many other benefits of welfare and help to restart their lives.

The benevolence of the law made sense in decades past. But a good argument can be made that many of the migrating Cubans are fleeing not persecution but economic turmoil. And in doing so, they are not any more desperate, perhaps even less so, than those fleeing the violence and poverty of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

Thousands of Central Americans arrived and asked for asylum in the summer of 2014. But those people are the wrong type of Latino for our policies. Many of them are indigenous, poor and have little formal schooling. So they were held for months in detention camps at the border. Many were eventually released, free to stay in the U.S. at least until their pleas for asylum status or legal residency can be assessed by an immigration judge. Raids and deportations of undocumented immigrants continue.

Meanwhile, as many as 8,000 Cubans who have been stranded in Costa Rica will soon be making their way northward through Mexico, after agreements were worked out by several Latin American governments. The Obama administration plans to open refugee screening centers in Central America, an attempt to stem the flow of non-Cuban migrants.

In this election year, especially in light of the GOP’s appeals to anti-immigrant sentiment, the migrant Cubans will present a political test.

GOP presidential contender Sen. Marco Rubio, whose parents left Cuba before Castro took over, has introduced legislation to curb abuses of the American generosity toward Cubans. The Sun Sentinel of South Florida in 2015 documented cases in which Cubans claiming to be exiles were taking U.S. government benefits or committing other types of fraud, even after returning to Cuba.

How far Rubio’s legislation and the companion bill in the House will advance remains to be seen. And there is virtually no appetite in an election year to overhaul immigration for the benefit of more than just Cubans.

Amnesty is still a curse word in most GOP circles. In decades past, that didn’t matter in the case of Cubans, who could be counted on to become Republicans.

If the GOP is to have any hope of salvaging the Latino vote this presidential cycle it will have to traverse this sticky thicket, also acknowledging the needs of other Latino migrants. They have to beat back the anti-immigrant bleating of Donald Trump, as South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley did in her response to the State of the Union speech.

They must vow to be just. They must promise to rewrite immigration law to weigh all humans’ needs equally and fairly, with no favor based on country of origin or likely partisan affinity. And they must not bow to nativist screeds.

 

By: Mary Sanchez, Opinion-Page Columnist for The Kansas City Star; Featured Post, The National Memo, January 15, 2016

January 17, 2016 Posted by | Central America, Cuban Adjustment Act, Cubans | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Rand Paul’s Fair-Weather Compassion”: How An Ideology Can Cause Terrible Misery

If you haven’t seen the video or photos yet, trust me, you will. Rand Paul in blue scrubs and hiking boots, bringing sight to the blind in an operating room in Guatemala — could there be a more perfect visual for a White House hopeful? And that’s before we even get to the metaphors about restoring vision and fixing problems.

A flattering segment on NBC’s Meet the Press was just the start of extracting the gold from this rich political vein. Campaign ads inevitably will feature video of the senator-surgeon performing the pro bono eye operations, as will a Citizens United documentary about Paul. The conservative group sent a camera crew and a drone to shoot footage him in action in Guatemala.

Let’s stipulate that whatever you think of Paul’s views or the political entourage he brought along, the Kentucky Republican transformed lives on that trip. It was a wonderfully compassionate volunteer act — and that’s where things get complicated.

Paul has been working steadily to create his personal brand of compassionate conservatism, and it’s more substantive than outreach. His causes include restoring voting rights to felons, reforming drug sentencing laws and — after Ferguson — demilitarizing the police. He is a champion of charter schools, which many black parents are seeking out for their children. He has proposed economic incentives to try to revive Detroit. He and Democratic senator Cory Booker are pushing legislation to make it easier for people to create new lives — including expunging or sealing convictions for some juveniles and lifting bans on post-prison food stamps and welfare benefits for some offenders.

All of that is broadly appealing. It’s also consistent with libertarian and conservative principles such as more personal choice, less government intrusion, lower taxes and — in the case of the prison and sentencing reforms — saving government money by reducing recidivism and prison populations. The emphasis is on the “conservative” part of the phrase.

The man who invented the brand and rode it all the way to the White House, George W. Bush, focused on the compassion part. To the dismay of conservatives, he enlarged the federal role in education (he called it “the civil rights issue of our time” and signed the No Child Left Behind Act) and spent a bundle of borrowed money to fight AIDS in Africa, launch a Medicare prescription drug program and try to impose democracy on Iraq.

What you might call fair-weather compassion — compassion that’s limited to policies that cut spending or, at the very least, don’t cost more — is a conservative hallmark in the post-Bush era. But Paul trumped his colleagues and won plaudits from groups like FreedomWorks with a 2013 budget that would have balanced in a lightning-fast five years. It repealed the Affordable Care Act and killed the departments of Commerce, Education, Energy, and Housing and Urban Development. It also privatized Medicare, allowed private Social Security accounts, and shifted Medicaid and food stamps — designed to grow and shrink depending on need — to a system of capped grants to the states. “Gut” was the liberal verb of choice.

Paul’s 2011 budget blueprint would have phased out all foreign aid. “This would cause misery for millions of people on AIDS treatment. It would betray hundreds of thousands of children receiving … malaria treatment,” former Bush aide Michael Gerson said last weekend on NBC after the Paul-in-Guatemala segment aired. “This is a perfect case of how a person can have good intentions but how an ideology can cause terrible misery.”

The ACA, with its premium subsidies and Medicaid expansion, is designed to help just the types of people Paul served in Guatemala. In fact, more than 290,000 newly eligible people had signed up for Medicaid in his home state by mid-April. Yet last year Paul was willing to shut down the government in an attempt to defund the law.

Paul did not release a budget this year, and he said in May that he is “not sure” that Kentucky’s ACA insurance marketplace (Kynect) should be dismantled. Is he giving himself some room to maneuver? Unclear. He continues to favor repeal of the entire ACA and seems most concerned about its impact on local hospitals. One had to lay off 50 people due to the law, he said, so “now we’ve got more people in the wagon, and less people pulling the wagon.”

What he said was debatable — CNHI News Service reported that the hospital, T.J. Samson in Glasgow, is expected to do better financially under the new health law than it did under previous policies. Beyond that, does Paul really want to snatch Medicaid away from nearly 300,000 of his least fortunate constituents? The answer to that question will help determine whether those compassionate images from Guatemala are merely images, or something more.

 

By: Jill Lawrence, The National Memo, August 28, 2014

August 29, 2014 Posted by | Compassionate Conservatism, Rand Paul | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Compassionate Paleolibertarianism”: Rand Paul Offers Free Eye Exam With Deportation

Not long ago, Rand Paul appeared at a fund-raiser for full-time immigration hawk and occasional racist Steve King, where he found himself uncomfortably close to a young Mexican immigrant, causing him to panic and flee. Now Paul tells Breitbart News he supports the House bill that would end President Obama’s policy of granting relief from deportation to undocumented immigrants who were brought here as children.

As Sam Stein points out, Paul has been telling Republicans they need to reach out to nonwhite voters and show them they care. In an odd bit of timing, Paul’s endorsement of draconian immigration policy coincides with his trip to Guatemala to perform free eye surgery. It was just Rand Paul and some Guatemalans who need medical care. Plus a wee entourage consisting of “three television cameras, three photographers, six reporters, a political aide, two press secretaries, [and] conservative activist David Bossie.” Basically, your standard medical crew, in other words. You could risk getting medical treatment without the director of such films as Battle for America (starring Dick Morris) standing by, but why risk it?

One might detect a dissonance between Paul’s warm-and-fuzzy medical mission and his hard-line stance toward Dreamers. But it actually fits together quite sensibly. The 2016 hopeful opposes universal health insurance, and he wants to deport half a million people who grew up in America. But Rand Paul will personally provide every deported immigrant with a free eye exam. Call it compassionate paleolibertarianism.

 

By: Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, August 22, 2014

August 25, 2014 Posted by | Deportation, Immigrants, Rand Paul | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Not A Single GOP Ripple”: So Much For Politics Stopping At The Water’s Edge

We talked earlier about Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who brought three television cameras, three photographers, six reporters, a political aide, two press secretaries, and far-right activist David Bossie to Guatemala for a “stage-managed political voyage.” But it appears that wasn’t the only reason for the trip.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) told the Guatemalan president the surge of child immigrants flooding the U.S. border this year is a result of President Obama’s policies, not problems in Central America.

“I told him, frankly, that I didn’t think the problem was in Guatemala City, but that the problem was in the White House in our country, and that the mess we’ve got at the border is frankly because of the White House’s policies,” Paul told Brietbart News in an article published Thursday.

According to the report in The Hill, the Kentucky Republican sat down with Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina for 45 minutes, and the senator discussed politics with the foreign head of state.

“I think what’s happened at the border is all squarely at the president’s lap,” Paul said. “The problem and the solution aren’t in Guatemala. The problem and solution reside inside the White House.”

As a substantive matter, the senator’s position is tough to defend or even understand. President Obama didn’t sign the 2008 human-trafficking measure into law; he didn’t create awful conditions in Central American countries; and he didn’t encourage anyone to lie to desperate families about what would happen to their children. If there’s a coherent explanation for why the White House is to blame, it’s hiding well.

But even putting that aside, since when is it kosher for U.S. officials to travel abroad to condemn U.S. leaders like this?

In fairness, it’s hard to say with certainty exactly what Rand Paul told President Molina during their discussion. I haven’t seen a video of the meeting and all we have to go on is the senator’s own claims.

But if Paul is telling the truth, he traveled abroad, visited with a foreign leader, and spent time trashing the president of the United States.

I seem to remember a time when there were norms that deemed actions like this unacceptable.

Under traditional American standards, some considered it inappropriate to criticize the president when he was overseas. More importantly, when U.S. officials were outside the country, norms called on those officials to refrain from criticizing America’s elected leaders.

I guess that doesn’t apply anymore? These standards were certainly in place during the Bush/Cheney era.

Here’s what happened in 2006 when Al Gore gave a speech at a conference in Saudi Arabia in which he criticized Bush policies towards the Muslim world – as summarized by The New York Times’ Chris Sullentrop:

“As House Democrats David Bonior and Jim McDermott may recall from their trip to Baghdad on the eve of the Iraq war, nothing sets conservative opinionmongers on edge like a speech made by a Democrat on foreign soil. Al Gore traveled to Saudi Arabia last week, and in a speech there on Sunday he criticized ‘abuses’ committed by the U.S. government against Arabs after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. A burst of flabbergasted conservative blogging followed the Associated Press dispatch about the speech… The editorial page of Investor’s Business Daily accused Gore of ‘supreme disloyalty to his country’….”

The Wall St. Journal’s James Taranto accused Gore of “denouncing his own government on foreign soil” and quoted the above accusation of “disloyalty.” Commentary was abundant all but accusing Gore of treason for criticizing the U.S. in a foreign land.

I’ll concede that such niceties may be antiquated, and maybe no one cares about this anymore. But if presidential criticism abroad was outrageous in the Bush/Cheney era, why does it barely cause a ripple now?

Update: Just to flesh this out further, in 2010, then-House Minority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) traveled to Israel in the hopes of undermining U.S. foreign policy towards Israel. At the time, this caused quite a stir in foreign-policy circles – it seemed extraordinary for an elected American official to travel abroad in order to work against his own country’s position.Perhaps now, with the Rand Paul example in mind, the practice is becoming more common.

For even more context, note that in 2007, then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) met with Syrian officials in Syria. Republicans, including Cantor, suggested Pelosi may have violated the Logan Act, “which makes it a felony for any American ‘without authority of the United States’ to communicate with a foreign government to influence that government’s behavior on any disputes with the United States.”

One wonders who, if anyone, will raise similar allegations against Rand Paul.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 22, 2014

August 23, 2014 Posted by | Border Crisis, GOP, Rand Paul | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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