Friday, December 6, 2019
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Cuba, immigration on the minds of Miami students

The student newspaper at Felix Varela High School in suburban Miami, which has a student body that is 71 percent economically disadvantaged and 84 percent Hispanic, editorialized last month to say political speeches and tirades about immigration “do not seem to fix anything. If anything, they only cause more confusion and diversion among the citizens of the country.”

Houses in Trinidad, Cuba (iStock)

“Diversion” is an interesting word choice, considering (a) it sounds a little like “division,” which political speeches also tend to escalate, especially in the most recent presidential election, and (b) our attention, and that of the media, is “diverted” away from more pressing issues, leaving the “fixes” employed by the incoming administration less space in our newspapers and airtime on our TV networks.

As much as many Americans may want to model our welcome of political refugees after countries that are somewhat successful in this endeavor, our national gaze turns away from this issue.

“Countries such as Turkey are housing over two million refugees, thanks to their open-door policy for those in need,” the editors write. “We at The Viper Vibe feel that more countries should follow in Turkey’s footsteps. Similar to how the United States has treated Cubans seeking political asylum for the past few decades, this is how neighboring countries should handle the Syrian mass exodus.”

But what should the US do about Cuba? Lifting a trade embargo while we try to give aid and comfort to refugees who are seeking political asylum, fleeing a Communist regime in this island nation that is 90 miles off our shores, we confuse the issue and make it seem, to these students anyway, that the refugees “no longer need our help or our protection.”

The government in Cuba has, by necessity, instituted some reforms, leading to President Barack Obama’s lifting of the trade embargo, but the authoritarian government still harasses political dissidents and many Cubans fear speaking out to demand human rights.

As with almost any sovereign state, different people have different opinions of government actions. You just can’t please everybody these days. For instance, Cuba’s release of certain political prisoners and the country’s playing host to certain peace talks have eased the fears of Cuban-Americans somewhat, and many in Miami now oppose a trade embargo. But at the same time, the country and others nearby still inspire fear that may compel citizens to flee in search of a safer and more secure future for themselves and their families.

Also in the Caribbean, Haitian citizens of the Dominican Republic are being deported back to Haiti. [Kicking them] out of their homes, even after living there for over 70 years, seems wrong. We understand that it is difficult to maintain immigrants in a country. Turkey has had to deal with terrorist groups forming within their country among refugees. Yet, we feel that [refugees] fleeing countries, [where they are] living under tyrannical rule, should be given the help they deserve.

How should the Trump administration address immigration and deal with undocumented people living in the US, including those from Cuba? Should our immigration policies be adjusted based on a person’s country of origin?

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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