New U.S. Policy Aims To Support Cuban Families’ Reunification


United States continues to discourage massive influx of Cuban refugees

Washington — The Bureau of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration
Services (USCIS) has announced changes to its existing policy that will
support the reunification of families separated by the regime of Cuban
dictator Fidel Castro by reducing the backlog for those waiting for
family-based immigrant visas, according to the U.S. Department of
Homeland Security (DHS).

USCIS, which is a division of the
DHS, issued a statement August 11 on the new policy and reaffirmed its
ongoing commitment to assist Cuban migrants and refugees who succeed in
reaching U.S. shores.  At the same time, however, the Bush
administration is urging the Cuban people to remain on their native
soil “so that they may work for their freedom and a democratic
society,” said DHS Deputy Secretary Michael Jackson.

processing in Cuba is regulated by the 1994 Joint Communique that
allows the United States to process a minimum of 20,000 migrants for
travel to the United States each year. Historically, three classes —
family-based immigrant visas, refugees and the Special Cuban Migration
Program, referred to as the Cuban Lottery — have made up that goal,
but there has been a significant backlog of individuals that have
applied for family-based immigrant visas. The Homeland Security plan
aims to reduce this backlog by recognizing a fourth class of migrants
— Discretionary Family Reunification (Backlog) Parolees.

support of its goal to reunify families split apart by the Castro
regime, USCIS said it “will exercise its discretion to increase the
numbers of Cuban migrants and refugees admitted to the United States
each year who have family members in the United States.” 

21,000 Cuban migrants are admitted into the United States annually.
Even though that total number will not change, a significantly larger
portion of the total will be Cubans with family members in the United
States, according to the agency.

Since the recent transfer
of power from an ailing Castro to his brother Raul, U.S. officials have
been anticipating a potential influx of migrants from Cuba.  Although
“we discourage anyone from risking their life in the open seas in order
to travel to the United States, … if a Cuban chooses to reunite with
their [U.S.-based] family, … we support a safe, legal and orderly
migration,” said Jackson.

To help ensure that any migration
from Cuba meets the “safe, legal and orderly” requirement, Homeland
Security has pledged to work closely with Congress to develop
legislation that will increase both criminal and civil penalties for
maritime alien smugglers.  Modeled on current maritime drug-smuggling
laws, the proposed legislation will enhance prosecution of those who
repeatedly endanger innocent lives.

The agency noted that some
of Cuba’s medical professionals also might qualify for immigrant
status.  “Using existing parole authority, the United States will allow
Cuban medical personnel currently conscripted to study or work in a
third country under the direction of the Cuban government to enter the
United States,” said USCIS.  This policy will also apply to the
families of these professionals, who often must remain in Cuba.

The full text
of a press release on the USCIS measures relating to Cuban migrants and
refugees is available on the Department of Homeland Security Web site.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International
Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

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