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Rubio bill would curb welfare abuses by Cuban immigrants

Rubio bill would curb welfare abuses by Cuban immigrants

The Republican presidential candidate and son of Cuban immigrants said
too many new arrivals from Cuba abuse their special access to U.S.
welfare, taking the help and going back to the Communist island.
Sally Kestin and Megan O’MatzContact Reporters
Sun Sentinel

Sen. Marco Rubio filed legislation Tuesday that would change decades of
special treatment Cuban immigrants have enjoyed under U.S. law.

The Republican presidential candidate, the son of Cuban immigrants, said
too many new arrivals from Cuba take advantage of their unique access to
U.S. welfare, collecting benefits and going back to the Communist
island. He cited recent Sun Sentinel investigations that showed the aid
had been “grossly abused.”

“It is outrageous whenever the American people’s generosity is
exploited,” Rubio said in a statement announcing the bill. “It is
particularly outrageous when individuals who claim to be fleeing
repression in Cuba are welcomed and allowed to collect federal
assistance based on their plight, only to return often to the very place
they claimed to be fleeing.”

Rubio’s bill would require Cuban immigrants to prove they were
persecuted in Cuba to qualify for cash, food stamps and Medicaid, like
asylum seekers from other countries. U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Miami
filed similar legislation last month that has the support of Cuban
Americans in Congress along with other key lawmakers.

For decades, Cubans have been the only immigrant group with immediate
access to welfare because the U.S. considered them presumed refugees.

But many Cubans are now coming for economic reasons and return regularly
to Cuba, some even living on the island while collecting U.S. benefits,
the Sun Sentinel reported in Easy Money an investigative series in
October. Welfare meant to help Cubans start new lives in the United
States has grown into an entitlement costing taxpayers more than $680
million a year.

The investigation riled Miami’s Cuban community with callers flooding
radio talk shows, complaining about neighbors and friends abusing
welfare. Cuban American politicians, who had long protected the unique
benefits that Cubans receive, joined in the call for reform.

Four Cuban-American members of Congress have signed onto Curbelo’s bill,
including Republican Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of
Miami. Co-sponsors also include six Democrats, among them Rep. Debbie
Wasserman Schultz of Weston, head of the Democratic National Committee.

Currently, Cubans qualify for the same benefits as refugees — cash and
food stamps worth up to $1,013 a month for a family of four — even if
they enter the U.S. without permission.

Increasing numbers of older Cubans are now coming to the United States.
And those over 65 can tap into a Social Security program for poor
elderly Americans, even though they never worked here, the Sun Sentinel
investigation found. An elderly Cuban couple, new to the U.S., can
collect up to $1,457 a month in cash and food stamps, more than some
Americans receive in retirement after working a lifetime.

“This legislation will ensure that only persecuted Cubans can receive
refugee benefits, which are designated for those who cannot return to
their countries, and will protect American taxpayers,” Curbelo said in
a statement Tuesday. “America’s generosity should be honored and
appreciated — never exploited or abused.”

The bill does not address the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966, a unique law
that grants Cubans legal residency after just a year and a day. The
policy envisioned a one-way path for Cubans to escape communism but has
persisted for decades even as many immigrants now take advantage of the
act to establish residency and then flit back and forth to Cuba.

Curbelo campaigned on a pledge to tighten the Cuban Adjustment Act, and
Rubio has also said it needs reform. In his statement, Rubio said “the
need to help those fleeing repression in Cuba has not changed.”

“This is a first step to eliminate the loopholes and financial
incentives that have been exploited for too long, while protecting U.S.
taxpayers and preserving the original intent of the Cuban Adjustment
Act,” he said. “This is a strong first step, and I hope Congress will
pass it this year.”

An Arizona congressman, meanwhile, has proposed repealing the Cuban
Adjustment Act and ending special preferences for Cubans. That bill,
offered by Republican Paul Gosar in October and nine others, is pending
before a House subcommittee on immigration but has no Cuban American

Source: Marco Rubio files bill to curb welfare abuses by Cuban
immigrants – Sun Sentinel –

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