Tuesday, October 15, 2019

GOP Congress Eyes Restrictions Of Cuban Refugee Benefits As Opposition To Increased Ties Fades

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U.S. Rep Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), a Cuban-American and native of south Florida, has introduced a bill aimed at implementing stricter controls over the Refugee Education Assistance Act that provides government assistance to Cuban-Americans and would require recipients to prove they are in fact political refugees living in the United States and escaping political prosecution. This comes as the GOP seems to be undergoing a quiet change in sentiment about the Obama Administration’s rapprochement policy towards the island nation with some speculating that the next Congress, whether it be Democratic or Republican controlled, will finally pass legislation to end the decades long embargo on Cuba.

According to Rep. Curbelo, the program has been abused for years with some recipients either still living in Cuba or not a political refugee. Curbelo framed his bill as a fix to ensure that resources are available for those who truly need the assistance. Curbelo commented that “tens of thousands of Cubans have responded by risking their lives to escape the island. This bill seeks to reduce the abuse of U.S. generosity and offers to Cubans the chance to work and thus contribute to our great nation.”

On the other side of Capitol Hill, Arizona Senator Jeff Flake, a leading Republican proponent of normalizing relations with Cuba who has visited the island, offered of his Republican colleagues in regard to the Cuban embargo that “to the extent that there was some resistance, maybe some broad resistance, there’s now just pockets of resistance to diplomatic relations”

While opponents of normalizing diplomatic ties point to the Cuban regime’s continued arrest of political dissidents and the harboring of U.S. fugitives as amble reason to continue harsh economic sanctions, James Williams, President of the Engage Cuba Coalition, noted “most Republican lawmakers that we deal with are in the camp of ‘I don’t care. I’d vote for it if it came up.”

While President Obama has said that he would like to visit Cuba in 2016, no plans have been made according to The White House.

With the issue of Cuban-American relations still evolving, some speculate that the President will wait to see how his visit could affect the 2016 presidential race. Mindful that any dramatic policy moves may impact former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s run for president late in the campaign, Obama may take a wait-and-see approach to any presidential level visit.

In response, a senior Obama administration official stated that “Normalizing our relationship is a complex, long-term process, and we will continue to work with Cuba to address areas of mutual concern as well as areas of difference.”

 

Politico, Latin Post