Detente Spawns Cuban Worry on US Migration Rights

A “non-tourist” part of Santiago de Cuba. Source.

HAVANA — Like tens of thousands of Cubans, Gerardo Luis wants to get to the United States and he’s suddenly worried that time may be running out.

Across an island where migrating north is an obsession, the widespread jubilation over last week’s historic U.S-Cuba detente is soured by fear that warming relations will eventually end Cubans’ unique fast track to legal American residency.

For nearly a half-century, the Cuban Adjustment Act has given Cubans who arrive in the U.S. a virtually guaranteed path to legal residency and eventual citizenship. The knowledge that they will be shielded from deportation has drawn hundreds of thousands of Cubans on perilous raft trips to Florida and land journeys through Central America and Mexico.

“If they take away the adjustment law, it would mean Cubans would end up just like all the other Hispanics who want to enter the United States,” said Luis, a 36-year-old construction worker who said he may try to reach Mexico and walk across the border if he doesn’t get a visa soon…

“I don’t know if they will take it away,” Angela Moreno, a 67-year-old retiree said of the preferential treatment, “but if they do, Cubans who go to the United States will have to do it like people from other countries”…

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, said he welcomed President Barack Obama’s move to create a “modern relationship” with Cuba, but Congress is not likely to alter the Cuban Adjustment Act or the U.S. trade embargo, until there have been significant steps by the Castro government…

However, the restoration of diplomatic relations could cause its own complications.

Illegal immigrants caught right after crossing the border are subject to swift deportation without a hearing, a process known as expedited removal. Cubans are exempted simply by presenting proof of their nationality…

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