ALAI, América Latina en Movimiento
The reformation of Cuba’s immigration policy
Jesús Arboleya Cervera
Havana – The long-awaited measures that reform Cuba’s immigration policy have just been announced. According to the government’s announcement, “other measures related to the immigration process will be gradually adopted, which undoubtedly will help consolidate the Revolution’s extended efforts to fully normalize Cuba’s relations with its émigré communities.”
In other words, the modifications described in the Official Gazette are part of a process whose final objective is to “normalize” the country’s relations with the émigrés. From this we can infer that the measures are not a definitive solution to the problem. It is therefore worthwhile to analyze the ways in which the measures represent a step forward and determine which are the aspects that still must be overcome to achieve a “full normalization” of Cuba’s relations with its émigrés.
The current modifications represent a huge step forward from the regulations that will exist until January 2013, inasmuch as – beyond eliminating unnecessary bureaucratic procedures – they distance themselves from the criteria that determined the current policy, i.e., a rejection of émigrés and their equivalence to counterrevolutionary activists.
Those criteria did not emerge from a vacuum or were aberrations of national policy. Encouraging emigration has been part of the United States’ hostility until today, and both the social composition of the early émigrés and their political intentions have contributed to that hostility.
Since we can assume that U.S. hostility will remain constant for the foreseeable future of U.S.-Cuba relations, the issue is not to ignore it but to match our response to the conditions in which these dynamics occur.
The reality is that the reforms are now possible because U.S. policy has entered a crisis as a result of the composition of the new émigrés and their needs and political inclinations.
Nevertheless, the reform process should not be seen only as a tactic of the country’s foreign policy. Instead, it constitutes a necessity of the Cuban society, due to the impact the changes have had in the evaluation made by the Cubans of the migration phenomenon and the relations with émigrés.
Although the tendency of Cuba’s immigration policy has been to loosen its more restrictive original aspects, the permanence of some measures (like the ones now being repealed) implied not only an anachronism but also political consequences that were counterproductive for our country.
While emigration tends to remain an endemic phenomenon in Cuban society (not only because of the encouragement it gets from the U.S. but also for the exceptional facilities that the U.S. gives Cubans), it is a result of endogenous contradictions, the most important being the existing imbalance between the human development promoted by the revolutionary process and the inability of the job market to absorb that qualified workforce.
Although this argument does not appear in the Law-Decree just issued or in the official statements that followed, I believe that it is essential to understand the relevance of the approved reforms, in view not only of the immediate impact on current emigration but also of the impact it may have on future emigration.
Cuban law still contemplates migration restrictions because of the nation’s security, the public good and the legal problems that are common worldwide. However, one singularity of the Law-Decree is that it establishes special mechanisms for certain sectors of leaders, entrepreneurs and professionals who are considered to be “vital” for the country.
The theft of brains constitutes a problem that limits the development of Third-World countries, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Cuba establishes control mechanisms to attenuate its most negative effects. However, the level of exceptions that may be established, the procedures followed to evaluate each case, as well as the degree of flexibility applied in the approvals, will determine that these exceptions should not contradict the opening in the current regulations that affect the policy as a whole.
But even if such mechanisms were applied with rationality and in a very limited form, as the Cuban authorities say they will, we must be aware that the criterion that inspires them is based on the belief that migratory flows can be controlled by restrictive rules.
Life contradicts such a concept. The practice of restrictions has stimulated and stimulates attitudes that are negative for the whole of society and the project of actualization, such as a lack of interest in assuming responsibilities or achieving a higher professional rating.
Anyway, what seems to be the principal limitation of the reforms is the lack of a broader criterion to establish the possibility of a return to the motherland.
Yes, the current regulations loosen the situation by extending to two years (renewable) the permanence of a person abroad before he’s considered “an émigré.” Nevertheless, the simple fact of continuing to view emigration as a definitive option has political and ideological implications that keep the émigré from maintaining a normal relationship with the motherland and exposes Cuban families to the tragedy of a separation that seems to have no resolution in time.
Evidently, the new immigration policy still ignores the criterion that viewing migration as circulatory in nature is most convenient for the country. This doesn’t mean that the policy ignores the political problems implicit in the phenomenon; on the contrary, it faces them in a more effective way. Bottom line: the strengthening of the feeling of nationality will always be the nation’s best shield.
Source: Progreso Weekly http://progreso-weekly.com/ini/index.php/cuba/3490-the-reformation-of-cubas-immigration-policy?utm_source=Arboleya1-ing&utm_campaign=Arboleya1-ing&utm_medium=email#jacommentid:10
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