Other Current Developments Regarding Cuban Migrants to U.S

When the U.S. decided on January 12 to end immediately the “dry foot/wet foot” immigration policy, as discussed in a prior post, two groups of Cubans faced immediate consequences.

First, many Cubans are stranded in Mexico or Central America unable to be allowed into the U.S. without a visa. Now many of them are waiting in place on the hope that Donald Trump after his January 20 inauguration will reverse the January 12 cancellation of that policy or make an exception for those in limbo.[1]

Alternatively if any of them are fleeing “persecution” in Cuba, they first must satisfy a “credible fear” test at the U.S. border and then subsequently apply for asylum in the U.S. They, however, will generally be held in immigration detention for potentially months and success is far from guaranteed. It can take years for asylum to be granted given the crushing caseloads for U.S. asylum officers and immigration judges.

Second, also affected is a group of Cubans known as Marielitos who are in the U.S., and whose situation requires a historical explanation.[2]

From April through October 1980, pursuant to Fidel Castro’s decision, nearly 125,000 Cubans were allowed to leave the island by boat from the port of Mariel on the north coast of the island west of Havana. Most were law-abiding, but some had just been released, by Fidel’s orders, from Cuban prisons and mental institutions. Within a few years after their arrival in the U.S. almost 3,000 of the “Marielitos” were in U.S. prisons after convictions for committing new and serious crimes in the U.S.

The Cuban government in 1984 agreed to take back 2,746 of these criminal Marielitos. But the U.S. deportations were slow and in some years did not take place at all. At one point, Marielitos who had been awaiting deportation for years rioted in several cities.

Now nearly 250 of this group of 2,746 have died, and, by June of last year, 478 of the original 2,746 remained in the U.S., but some of this smaller group are elderly or very ill, and the U.S. government has lost interest in deporting some of them.

The January 12, 2017, agreement between the U.S. and Cuba allows the U.S. to deport or remove up to 500 of the 2,746 Marielitos and send them back to Cuba, which agreed to accept them. Moreover, Cuba has agreed to accept other Marielitos who have been convicted of crimes in the U.S. as part of this group of 500, but were not part of the original group of 2,746.

I have a personal connection to one of the Marielitos. Before I retired from practicing law in June 2001, I was appointed by Minnesota’s federal court to represent, pro bono, one of them who was in immigration detention at the federal government’s medical facility in Rochester, Minnesota (the site of the famous Mayo Clinic). He had been convicted of a serious crime in Rhode Island, as I recall, and after completion of his criminal incarceration, the U.S. put him in immigration detention for deportation or removal to Cuba, but Cuba would not accept him back. Although he was not an attorney, he had filed, pro se, a habeas corpus petition with Minnesota’s federal court, and my task, as his pro bono attorney, was to analyze and submit a legal brief in support of that petition. I did so.

Before the government submitted a response to my legal brief and before the court had to make a decision on the petition, the U.S. government decided to permit my client’s release from immigration detention. At the Rochester medical facility, he was suffering from a terminal disease, and I believed the government’s decision for his release was not based on the quality of my legal arguments, but on its desire to reduce its costs of keeping him in that facility.

Not long after my “successful” representation of this Marielito and his release from the Rochester facility, my legal argument was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in Zadvydas v. Davis, 533 U.S. 678 (2001), holding that the Constitution did not permit the U.S. to detain indefinitely immigrants under order of deportation whom no other country will accept. To justify detention of immigrants for a period longer than six months, the government was required to show removal in the foreseeable future or special circumstances.

Four years later, the U.S. Supreme Court decided, 7-2, in Clark v. Martinez, 543 U.S. 371 (2005), that the Zadvydas decision applied to Marielitos, whose return Cuba would not permit.

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[1] Assoc. Press, Cuban Migrants Steps From US Border Hope for Trump Solution, N.Y. times (Jan. 14, 2017); Assoc. Press, US Policy Change on Cuban Migrants Leaves Many Stranded, N.Y. Times (Jan. 13, 2017).

[2] Robles, ‘Marielitos’ Face Long-Delayed Reckoning: Expulsion to Cuba, N.Y. times (Jan. 14, 2017); Mariel boatlift, Wikipedia; Greenhouse, Supreme Court Rejects Mariel Cubans Detention, N.Y. Times (Jan. 13, 2005); Zadvydas v. Davis, Wikipedia; Zadvydas v. Davis, 533 U.S. 678 (2001); Clark v. Martinez, Wikipedia; Clark v. Martinez, 543 U.S. 371 (2005).

 

 

 

Other Signs of Cuban Regime’s Distress Over Economy

The recent Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba displayed the difficulties Cuban leaders are having in developing a mixed economy with private enterprise (the non-state sector) competing against the dominant state business enterprises. As prior posts have reported, Cuban leaders at the Congress admitted that the state-owned entities were having difficulty in such competition and the non-state sector was increasing its share of the Cuban economy while the leaders simultaneously railed against President Obama’s effective advocacy of free enterprise to the Cuban people.[1]

Now we see two other signs of the Cuban regime’s near panic over this situation.

Firing of Professor Omar Everleny Perez

First, it is now being revealed that on April 8 (three weeks after Obama’s visit to Cuba), the University of Havana fired Professor Omar Everleny Perez, one of the country’s best-known academics, an expert in developing economies who served as a consultant for Castro’s government when it launched a series of market-oriented economic reforms in 2011. He has made many well-known trips to universities and conferences in the U.S. and frequently received foreign visitors researching the Cuban economy, but was fired for allegedly having unauthorized conversations with foreign institutions and informing “North American representatives” about the internal procedures of the university.[2]

Perez said he believed Cuban authorities were seeking to make an example of him not because of the allegations in the letter, but because of his critical writings about the slow pace of economic reforms. Armando Chaguaceda, a Cuban political scientist based at the University of Guanajuato in Mexico, shared that view. He said, “His call to speed up the reforms and make them coherent may have served to frighten some of the forces of immobility in the bureaucracy. It’s a terrible message to economists that will affect the government’s own capacity to hear feedback about its reforms.”

Perez is not the only Cuban academic to be sanctioned by the authorities in recent years. Political scientist Esteban Morales was expelled from the Communist Party in 2010 for two years for denouncing corruption. Sociologist Roberto Zurbano lost his job at a state cultural center after discussing racism in Cuba in an editorial published in the New York Times. In 2013, musician Roberto Carcasses was temporarily barred from cultural institutions after criticizing the government during a concert, and director Juan Carlos Cremata was prevented last year from putting on a production of Eugene Ionesco’s “Exit the King,” a play about a once-powerful dying leader.

Cubans Fleeing the Country

The second sign of Cuban leaders’ distress is the increasing number of Cubans leaving the island.

As discussed in other posts, many Cubans have been leaving Cuba and seeking to get through the U.S. through Central America. Inspired in part by a fear that the U.S. would be eliminating its special immigration benefits for Cubans, their departures also show fear that their dire economic situation in Cuba would not significantly improve in the near future.[3]

The arrival of Cubans by land with “dry feet” in the U.S. is documented in a report by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Since October 2014 it has processed nearly 75,000 Cubans who arrived at ports of entry, many of them in Laredo, Texas.

The phenomenon of Cubans leaving the island is seen too by Cubans trying to make the dangerous sea crossing to Florida. U.S. Homeland Security Department documents show the highest number of such attempted crossings in the past eight years.[4]

During the 2015 fiscal year ending September 30, 2015, more than 4,400 Cubans set out for the U.S. by sea, a 20 percent increase over the previous fiscal year, according to Coast Guard figures. Of these the U.S. Coast Guard interdicted 2,927, which was up 42.2% over fiscal 2014 and 115.7% over fiscal 2013. Between October 2015 and this March, more than 4,300 people have tried to make the dangerous trip.

The U.S. Coast Guard has had to step up its presence in the Florida Straits to deal with more people on overcrowded, makeshift rafts or barely seaworthy boats. Would-be immigrants caught at sea are returned to Cuba, so the rush has made people more desperate, with some actually wounding themselves with knives or guns in the hopes they will be taken to a hospital in the U.S. instead of sent back. Others try to flee rescuers and refuse life jackets.

Conclusion

These developments show this outside observer from the U.S. that Cuba needs to step up the pace of economic reform and that the U.S. needs to end its embargo as soon as possible.

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[1] Here are blog posts about President Obama’s trip to Cuba and the recent congress of the Communist Party of Cuba: President Obama’s Eloquent Speech to the Cuban People (Mar. 25, 2016)(includes full text of speech); Reactions to President Obama’s Speech to the Cuban People (Mar. 26, 2016); Fidel Castro Challenges President Obama’s Call To Forget the Past (Mar. 28, 2016); Other Reactions to Fidel Castro’s Commentary on President Obama’s Trip (Mar. 31, 2016); Raúl Castro Discusses Cuba-U.S. Relations in Report to Seventh Congress of Communist Party of Cuba (April 18, 2016);Raúl Castro Discusses Scio-Economic Issues in Report to Seventh Congress of Communist Party of Cuba (April 19, 2016); Conclusion of Seventh Congress of Communist Party of Cuba (April 20, 2016.

 

[2] Assoc. Press, Renowned Pro-Reform Cuban Economist Fired As Chill Sets In, N.Y. Times (April 21, 2016).

[3] Here are a few of the posts regarding Cuban migrants in Central America and by sea: Resolution of Problem of Cuban Migrants Stranded in Costa Rica (Dec. 30, 2015); Cuban Migration Developments (Jan. 21, 2016); Another Cuban Migrant Problem in Central America (April 17, 2016).

[4] Assoc. Press, Cubans Fleeing in High Numbers Despite New Diplomatic Ties, N.Y. Times (April 20, 2016); Neal, 137 Cubans repatriated by Coast Guard, Miami Herald (April 20, 2016); U.S. Coast Guard, Alien Migrant Interdiction (as of Jan. 19, 2016).

New York Times Calls for End to Special U.S. Immigration Programs for Cubans

 

The New York Times Editorial Board on December 21 called for the U.S. to end its special immigration programs for Cubans. It, therefore, joins the criticism of such policies by the Cuban Government.[1]

With respect to the so-called “Wet Foot, Dry Foot” policy, the editorial notes that the recent exodus of many Cubans through Ecuador and Central America in attempts to reach the U.S. highlights the need for an immediate end to that policy. Even if Congress does not repeal the Cuban Adjustment Act that grants Cubans in the U.S. the right to apply for permanent residency after one year of such presence, the following can and should be done:

  • Because that Act does not require the U.S. to grant all Cubans who arrive here by land parole status, the U.S. Administration should stop doing so and instead only grant such status to those Cubans who demonstrate a ”credible”” fear of persecution in Cuba., which is a preliminary step for a subsequent application for asylum requiring a “well-founded” fear of such persecution.
  • Cuba should agree to accept the return of those Cubans denied entry into the U.S. and the roughly 34,000 Cubans n U.S. prisons for conviction of crimes in this country..
  • The U.S. should “continue to admit a high number of Cuban immigrants who apply for visas [at the U.S. Embassy in] Havana, giving priority to those who have legitimate persecution claims and those who have family members in the [U.S.].
  • “The Obama administration should negotiate a new agreement with the Cuban government that makes orderly immigration the norm.”

With respect to the U.S. “Cuban Medical Professionals Parole Program,” the editorial calls for its immediate termination and for Cuba to end its new requirement for exit visa for such personnel.[2]

As previous posts demonstrate, I concur in these recommendations.[3]

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[1] Editorial: A New Cuban Exodus, N.Y. Times (Dec. 21, 2015). The most recent of many Cuban demands for ending these U.S. immigration programs was in President Raúl Castro’s December 18th speech to his country.

[2] The Times recently published an article about the Cuban Medical Personnel Parole Program: Burnett & Robles, U.S. and Cuba at Odds Over Exodus of the Island’s Doctors, N.Y. Times (Dec. 19, 2015).

[3] E.g., Results of U.S.-Cuba Discussions After Ceremonial Opening of U.S. Embassy in Havana (Aug. 18, 2015; New York Times Calls for End of U.S. Program for Special Immigration Relief for Cuban Medical Personnel (Nov. 23, 2014).

U.S. and Cuba Fail To Resolve Complaints About U.S. Immigration Policies

On November 30 in Washington, D.C. the United States and Cuba held their biannual migration talks without progress in resolving major disputes over U.S. immigration benefits for certain Cubans. Immediately afterwards Cuba imposed travel restrictions on Cuban medical personnel.

Summary of the Bilateral Talks[1]

The Cuban delegation reiterated its deep concern over the U.S.’ Cuban Adjustment Act and the “wet foot-dry foot” policy. Cuba insisted that this U.S. policy has encouraged illegal, unsafe and disorderly migration and trafficking in migrants and irregular entries into the U.S. from third countries. This happened most recently in Costa Rica and other Central American countries.[2] Cuba insisted that this policy violates the letter and spirit of their Migratory Agreements in force, by which the U.S. undertook to discontinue the practice of admitting Cuban migrants who reached their territory by irregular means, to ensure a safe and orderly legal migration between the two countries.

The U.S., however, continued to assert that it did not intend to make changes in this immigration policy.

The Cuban delegation also reiterated its objections to the U.S. “Parole Program for Cuban Medical Professionals.” Cuba stressed that this was a reprehensible practice aimed at damaging the Cuban international medical mission programs and deprived Cuba and many needy countries of vital human resources. According to Cuba, this U.S. program also Is inconsistent with the countries’ bilateral Migratory Agreements, hinders the normalization of their migratory relations and generates problems to other countries in the region.

Nevertheless the Cuban delegation emphasized that the talks took place in a friendly and professional environment, that other aspects of migratory relations were evaluated, including the implementation of existing agreements, the issuance of visas for immigrants and temporary visitors, the actions of both parties to address illegal people smuggling and document fraud. The two delegations agreed on the positive results that had occurred at the prior bilateral technical meeting on immigration fraud, held in March 2015 in Havana.

The delegation of Cuba conveyed its willingness to continue these talks and invited a U.S. delegation to do so in Havana in the first half of 2016,

The U.S. Department of State spokesperson was much briefer in comments that had been prepared before the talks. She said, “Today the U.S. and Cuba will hold their biannual migration talks . . .  to discuss continuing implementation of the U.S.-Cuba Migration Accords, which provide for the safe, orderly, and legal migration of Cubans to the U.S.”

The U.S. spokesperson added, “The U.S. “will be proposing . . . a discussions on how both governments can contribute to combating smuggling organizations that take advantage of Cuban migrants. Additionally, we are looking for solutions to the challenge if migrants do not have a valid asylum claim or other legal basis to remain in a country. We recognize that governments have the sovereign right to return them to their home country. Any and all returns should be carried out safely and with dignity.”

New Cuban Exit-Restrictions on Cuban Medical Professionals[3]

After the talks in Washington had been concluded and the U.S. continued refusal to change its Cuban medical professional parole program, the Cuban government in Havana announced that effective December 7 Cuban health professionals in specialties that have been drained by large-scale emigration in recent years will now be required to obtain permission from Cuba’s Health Ministry officials in order to leave the country.

These specialties included anesthesiology, cardiology, pediatrics, neurosurgery, nephrology, obstetrics, gynaecology, orthopaedics, traumatology and neonatology. In reviewing applications for exit visas in these specialties, the Ministry will analyze the proposed dates of travel, the coverage of the individuals’ practice in their absence and guaranteeing the accessibility, quality, continuity and stable functioning of Cuban health services

Conclusion

I agree that special immigration benefits for Cubans arriving on land in the U.S. should be eliminated as soon as possible.[4] Although I am a retired attorney, I have not attempted to determine whether the Obama Administration on its own by executive order or changes in regulations could do this or whether it requires Congress to pass a bill on this subject, but I plan to conduct at least a preliminary legal analysis of this issue for a future post. (I would appreciate comments on this issue by those with more knowledge of the issues.)

I also agree that the U.S. should abolish the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program as discussed in prior posts.[5] Again I have not attempted to determine whether the Obama Administration on its own by executive order or changes in regulations could do this or whether it requires Congress to pass a bill to do this. (I also would appreciate comments on this issue by those with more knowledge of the issues.)

I originally was baffled by the U.S.’ continued assertions that there would be no changes in U.S. immigration policies regarding Cuba because those policies, in my opinion, are so illogical and inappropriate for countries with normal relations. Now I suspect that those assertions were based upon the Administration’s assessment of the difficulty (or impossibility) in obtaining Congressional approval of any necessary legislative changes on these issues and the Administration’s belief or hope that such assertions would discourage Cubans from immediately accelerating their plans or desire to leave Cuba for the U.S.

As a result, I am disappointed that the U.S. has not changed these policies.

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[1] Migration talks between Cuba and the United States, Granma (Nov. 30, 2015); Press Release issued by the Cuban Delegation to the Round of Migration Talks between Cuba and the United States. Washington, November 30, 2015; U.S. State Dep’t, Daily Press Briefing (Nov. 30, 2015); Whitefield, Despite talks, U.S.-Cuba migration impasse continues, Miami Herald (Nov. 30, 2015).

[2] Cubans in Central America Provide Cuba with an Opportunity To Reiterate Its Objections to U.S. immigration Policies (Nov. 20, 2015); Update on Cuban Migrants in Central America (Nov. 27, 2015).

[3] Assoc. Press, Cuba Imposes Travel Permit for Doctors to Limit Brain Drain, N.Y. Times (Dec. 1, 2015); Declaration of the Revolutionary Government, Granma (Nov. 30, 2015). The Cuban Government’s Declaration also reiterated its complaints about the U.S. Cuban Adjustment Act and the dry feet/wet feet policy.

[4] E.g., Results of U.S.-Cuba Discussions After Ceremonial Opening of U.S. Embassy in Havana (Aug. 18, 2015).

[5] E.g., New York Times Calls for End of U.S. Program for Special Immigration Relief for Cuban Medical Personnel ( Nov. 23, 2014).

Update on Cuban Migrants in Central America

A prior post discussed the conflict between Costa Rica and Nicaragua over Cubans trying to traverse Central American countries on their way to the United States. Since then, the foreign ministers of the eight countries of the Central American Integration System (SICA) and of other interested countries (Cuba, Ecuador and Colombia) held an inconclusive meeting to discuss that situation and thereafter Ecuador announced a change in its policies for Cuban migrants. Here is a summary of those developments.

Situation of Cubans in Central America

An estimated 3,000 Cubans are now stuck in Costa Rica over Nicaragua’s refusing to allow their entry into that country for their journey to the U.S. Many of these Cubans have smart phones and social media that have assisted them in their trek from Ecuador to Central America and, they hope, on to the U.S.[1]

SICA Foreign Ministers Meeting

The situation of the Cuban migrants was the focus of the just mentioned SICA meeting on Tuesday (November 24) . Note that the U.S. was not present or invited.[2]

The situation was prompted by Nicaragua’s refusing to admit Cuban migrants from Costa Rica. Nicaragua said Costa Rica had created and manipulated this crisis by seeking to ignore the real cause: the U.S. immigration policies that need to be changed. “Our governments do not have the resources to deal with this new threat to our national security,” suggesting that Nicaragua was faced with the wave of Cubans that could facilitate terrorism or migrants from other countries. Nicaragua also criticized the Cold-War-era U.S. policies that allow the Cubans special status as migrants.

The Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the Cubans in Costa Rica came legally to different nations of Latin America, with all the requirements established by the migratory regulations of their country. “In an attempt to reach U.S. territory, [however,] they have become victims of traffickers and criminal gangs, which unscrupulously profit from the control of the passage of these people through South America, Central America and Mexico.” Moreover, Cuba stated that the migrants also were victims of the politicization of the migration issue by the U.S. government, through the Cuban Adjustment Act and the “wet-foot, dry-foot policy.”

Cuba also said it has remained in contact with the governments of the countries involved. Indeed, Cuba’s Foreign Minister, Bruno Rodriguez Parilla, visited officials of its allies, Ecuador and Nicaragua, on November 19 and 20 respectfully to discuss the situation.

Ecuador supported Nicaragua’s position by saying that under international law creation of humanitarian corridors only applies in situations of war or armed conflict which was not the case here.

The Salvadoran Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hugo Martinez, afterwards said it was necessary to reach a comprehensive solution that addressed the current immigration crisis. He also said that El Salvador will ask the International Organization for Migration to support Costa Rica in shelter conditions for the Cuban migrants. However, he said, allowing the passage of the migrants was subject to the “principle of self-determination” of each of the SICA countries and that the migration was not encouraged by the country of origin (Cuba) or by the Central American countries, but by the U.S. with its special immigration policies for Cubans.

After the meeting Costa Rica’s Foreign Minister, Manuel Gonzalez, said that Nicaragua had refused again to cooperate in finding and adopting a solution for the migrants.

The solution proposed by Costa Rica was an arrangement to enable the safe, orderly and documented transit of the Cuban migrants so that they would avoid falling prey to international trafficking networks. According to Gonzalez, Nicaragua objected to this proposal and did not present any viable alternative approach.

Ecuador’s Requiring Visas for Cubans

On November 26 Ecuador announced that effective December 1 it will require Cubans to have visas to enter the country. Ecuador’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Xavier Lasso, said this change was to honor commitments it made at the SICA meeting “to stop human rights violations and even loss of lives” and to halt threats to Cuba’s population. Lasso also urged the U.S. to rescind its “dry feet” immigration policy so that Cubans would no longer attempt this journey.[3]

The next day hundreds of Cubans gathered at the Ecuadorian Embassy in Havana to protest the new visa policy. They were angry because they say they had bought airplane tickets to Ecuador before visas were required. An Embassy spokesman said the Cubans would have to get a new visa and speak to the airlines about refunds.[4]

Conclusion

I agree that special immigration benefits for Cubans arriving on land in the U.S. and the risk that these benefits will be eliminated are prompting many Cubans to try to come to the U.S. as soon as possible. I also agree that these U.S. laws and policies should be eliminated as soon as possible.[5] In a future post I will attempt at least a preliminary legal analysis of the claim that the Obama Administration on its own by executive order or changes in regulations could do this.

I also agree that the U.S. should abolish the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program as discussed in prior posts.[6] Again I have not attempted to determine whether the Obama Administration on its own by executive order or changes in regulations could do this or whether it requires Congress to pass a bill. (I would appreciate comments on this issue by those with more knowledge of the issues.)

The continuation of these U.S. immigration laws and policies will clearly be at the top of the Cuban agenda for the biannual round of bilateral discussion of migration issues in Washington, D.C. on November 30. Now Cuba will emphasize the recent Cuban migrant situation in Central America as an additional reason for prompt U.S. action.[7]

I originally was baffled by the U.S.’ continued assertions that there would be no changes in U.S. immigration policies regarding Cuba because those policies, in my opinion, are so illogical and inappropriate for countries with normal relations. Now I suspect that those assertions were based upon the Administration’s assessment of the difficulty (or impossibility) in obtaining Congressional approval of any necessary legislative changes on these issues and the Administration’s belief or hope that such assertions would discourage Cubans from immediately accelerating their plans or desire to leave Cuba for the U.S.

I reach these conclusions even though I suspect that Nicaragua’s precipitating the current problem in Central America was at the request of its close ally, Cuba, because, in my opinion, (a) Nicaragua would not do anything regarding Cuba against the latter’s wishes; (b) Cuba is concerned about the number of Cubans leaving the island and with Nicaragua’s assistance perhaps could stop a major route for such an exodus; (c) Cuba would like to have another occasion or reason to blame the U.S. for the problem; and (d) Nicaragua’s complaints against Costa Rica are absurd. I also believe, for similar reasons, that Ecuador’s recent requirement of visas for Cubans was at the request of Cuba.

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 [1] Assoc. Press, Social Media Helps Drive Historic Cuban Exodus to US, N.Y. Times (Nov. 23, 2015).

[2] Sica meeting will address situation of Cuban migrants in Central America, Granma (Nov. 20, 2015); Cuban Foreign Minister held working visit to Ecuador and Nicaragua, Granma (Nov. 22, 2015); Begins Tuesday SICA meeting on migration in Central America, Granma (Nov. 23, 2015); Moran, Cuban migration could generate humanitarian crisis, ContraPunto (Nov. 23, 2015); Assoc. Press, Central American Officials Meet on Cuban Migrant Problem, N.Y> Times (Nov. 24, 2015); Foreign Ministers Discuss in El Salvador on Cuban Migrants Situation, Prensa Latina (Nov. 24, 2015); SICA meeting solution Cuban migrants issue in Costa Rica, CubaDebate (Nov. 24, 2015); Costa Rica Foreign Ministry, Nicaragua PREVENTS regional and humanitarian solution for protection of Cuban Migrants (Nov. 24, 2015); Moran, Nicaragua blocks outlet for Cuban immigrants, ContraPunto (Nov. 24, 2015); SICA Meeting in El Salvador: Regional gathering discusses situation of Cuban migrants in Costa Rica, Granma (Nov. 25, 2015); Gomez, Central America, a broker of broken dreams, Granma (Nov. 26, 2015).

[3] Ecuador Foreign Ministry, Ecuador requests tourist visas to Cubans starting December 1 (Nov. 26, 2015); From December 1 Ecuador requires visas for Cubans, El Commercio (Nov. 26, 2015); Ecuador asked the Cuban visa from December 1 (+ Note of the Foreign Ministry), CubaDebate (Nov. 26, 2015); Ecuador announces visa requirement for Cubans, Granma (Nov. 26, 2015); Assoc. Press, Ecuador to Require Cubans to Get Entry Visas, N.Y. times (Nov. 26, 2015); Cubans need visas to enter Ecuador again, LaHora (Nov. 27, 2015); Soraya, Ecuador puts a stop to the arrival of Cubans, El Pais (Nov. 27, 2015).

[4] Reuters, Cubans Protest New Ecuador Visa Regulation, N.Y. Times (Nov. 27, 2015); Assoc. Press, Hundreds Gather in Havana in Frustration at Ecuador Visa Rule, N.Y. Times (Nov. 27, 2015).

[5] E.g., Results of U.S.-Cuba Discussions After Ceremonial Opening of U.S. Embassy in Havana (Aug. 18, 2015).

[6] E.g., New York Times Calls for End of U.S. Program for Special Immigration Relief for Cuban Medical Personnel ( Nov. 23, 2014)

[7] Cuban Foreign Ministry, Cuba and the United States will hold a new round of migration talks, Granma (Nov. 26, 2015); U.S. State Dep’t, United States and Cuba Hold Migration Talks, Counter-Narcotics Dialogue (Nov. 25, 2015)

Naturalized U.S. Citizens: Important Contributors to U.S. Culture and Economy

U.S. citizens are those individuals who were born in the U.S. as well as those born elsewhere to a parent who is a U.S. citizen. In addition, there are those who choose to become naturalized U.S. citizens by filing an Application for Naturalization, Form N-400, with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which is part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and meeting the following requirements of U.S. law:

  • Be at least 18 years of age;
  • Be a lawful permanent resident (green card holder);
  • Have resided in the United States as a lawful permanent resident for at least five years;
  • Have been physically present in the United States for at least 30 months;
  • Be a person of good moral character;
  • Be able to speak, read, write and understand the English language;
  • Have knowledge of U.S. government and history; and
  • Be willing and able to take the Oath of Allegiance. [1]

The average annual number of individuals who became U.S. citizens increased from less than 120,000 during the 1950s and 1960s to 210,000 during the 1980s, and 500,000 during the 1990s. In the 21st century the annual average has increased to nearly 690,000 as shown by the following statistics:

Fiscal Year Total New Naturalized U.S. Citizens Fiscal Year Total New Naturalized U.S. Citizens
2000     888,788 2008 1,050,399[2]
2001     613,161 2009     741,982
2002     589,727 2010     619,075
2003     456,063 2011     690,705
2004     536,176 2012     762,742
2005     600,366 2013     777,416
2006     702,663 2014     654,949
2007     659,233 TOTAL 10,343.445

Until the 1970s, the majority of persons naturalizing were born in European countries. In the 1970s the regional origin of new citizens shifted from Europe to Asia due to increased legal immigration from Asian countries, the arrival of Indochinese refugees, and the historically higher naturalization rate of Asian immigrants. This summary from the U.S. Government, however, fails to aggregate the people from South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean into a Latin American group. For the latest available fiscal year (2013), the new citizens came from the following regions of the world:

Region of origin Number Percentage
Latin America    339,229    43.5%
Asia    275,700    35.3%
Europe     80,333    10.3%
Africa     71,872      9.2%
Other    12,795      1.6%
TOTAL 779,929 100.0%

In FY 2013, the top countries of origin for naturalization were in the following order: Mexico, India, the Philippines, Dominican Republic, China and Cuba.

In FY 2013, 75 percent of all individuals naturalizing resided in 10 states (in descending order): California, New York, Florida, Texas, New Jersey, Illinois, Virginia, Massachusetts, Georgia and Pennsylvania. That same fiscal year the leading metropolitan areas of residence were New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA (17.5 percent); Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA (9 percent); and Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL (8.6 percent).

Conclusion

These new citizens provide an infusion of new perspectives on culture and on the U.S. itself. We are blessed to have them join us. Many other industrialized countries like Japan do not have this openness to newcomers and, therefore, struggle with aging and declining populations and resulting diminished influence in the world.

Although the public information for becoming a naturalized citizen on the website of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which is the basis for this post, is very useful, anyone thinking of doing so should consider consulting with an U.S. attorney with experience in this area of the law.

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[2] There also are other provisions for naturalization for members of the U.S. military and for children under the age of 18.

[2] The unusually large number of new naturalized citizens in FY 2008 was due primarily to applications received in advance of a fee increase in calendar 2008 and to a special effort to encourage eligible individuals to submit applications for citizenship.