Some 7,000 Cubans are expected to cross the US/Mexico border from Reynosa, Tamaulipas, to Hidalgo, Texas. More and more are arriving, ever since Cuba and Mexico signed an accord in October 2015 that facilitated the entry of Cubans to the southern neighbor of the United States.
 
Cubans coming to Mexico from Cuba cite the lack of freedom and jobs as their reasons for escaping from the island republic. And Cuban authorities apparently are not adverse to seeing them leave the country, unlike prior decades when travel was extremely restricted. Relatives in Miami and elsewhere in the US are sending vans, buses and personal vechiles to collect their relatives at the border to transport them to their new homes.
 
Some Cubans fly into Mexico, while others have been known to make treks of more than a 1,000 miles by foot from South America to reach freedom in the United States, passing through Central America and Mexico. Cuba has retained its Communist government, which still commits regular violations of human rights such as restricting religious freedom, and freedom of the press. Dissidents are still imprisoned in Cuban jails for political crimes.
 
 
The federal government is apparently prepared to receive an avalanche of Cuban migrants. The migration occurred subsequent to diplomatic rapprochement between the United States and Cuba in 2015 that resulted in opening up full diplomatic relations between the two countries. Since the Cuban revolution in 1959, the United States and Cuba had had but consular-level relations through the auspices of the Swiss embassy in Havana. In 2015, Secretary of State John Kerry inaugurated the American embassy in the Cuban capital and met with the communist leader, Raul Castro. 
 
Regarding its preparations, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection released a statement that said in part, "U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is prepared to process the expected increase in Cubans applying for admission at South Texas ports of entry. CBP officers will process Cuban nationals in accordance with established procedures as expeditiously as possible while maintaining requirements and standards for individuals in our care."
 
Welfare abuse
 
Currently, Cuban immigrants receive some $680 million per year in benefits that include unique access to disability payments, food stamps, and other payments. In some cases, Cubans who have returned to Cuba continue to receive these benefits paid by taxpayers. Their unique access to American largesse is based on how easy it is for them to gain admission to the U.S., and American generosity. Cubans can remain in the country even when they arrive illegally. They are quickly given permanent resident status under the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act. Cubans are immediately eligible for welfare, food stamps, Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income or SSI, cash assistance intended for low-income senior citizens and the disabled. However, in most cases other immigrants are prohibited from receiving aid for their first five years in-country. And those here illegally are not eligible at all.
 
According to a study by the Sun-Sentinel newspaper of Florida, the abuse is widespread but unchecked by any federal agency. Arriving Cubans, unlike other nationalities, are presumed to be refugees and thus access special designated assistance. Since 2004, in excess of 329,000 Cubans arrived in Florida alone and thus received job training, medical care and cash assistance. Currently, nine out of ten refugees receiving services are Cuban.
 
Federal regulations prohibit the receipt or use of welfare payments in any country besides the U.S. Cubans are known to spend months at a time back in Cuba, and then return to the U.S. before benefits expire. Florida state Rep. Manny Díaz Jr., a Cuban-American, has said that the practice is an insult to fellow Americans who aid Cubans only to them abuse the assistance. Some politicians have reported that the sense of entitlement to the benefits is so engrained among some Cubans that constituents go to their offices to demand payments for relatives who have left for Cuba on extended stays.
 
Díaz said that the government’s money is being used to “have a great old time back in the country that was supposed to be oppressing you.” “They’re taking benefits from the American taxpayer to subsidize their life in another country,” he added.
 
As diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba have eased, coupled with increased amounts of travel between the two countries, entitlement to welfare benefits is increasingly hard to justify. However, neither President Barack Obama nor Congress have made moves to address the problem.

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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