Cuban immigrants, who have enjoyed U.S. privileges for decades, are now receiving the same treatment as other immigrants under new policies established by the Trump administration.
The Homeland Security Department’s rule onpublic charge grounds for inadmissibilitycan especially impact some Cubans, although others covered by the Cuban Adjustment Act remain exempt from the new rule, which has generated much confusion within the exile community.
▪The new rule broadens thedefinition of who can be considered a public charge. It used to be a person primarily dependent on public assistance. But now it is a person who is more likely than not to receive certain public benefits for more than 12 months, in the aggregate, within any 36-month period.
Cubans who may be impacted are those who arrive under theCuban Family Reunification Parole Program, because that process requires anAffidavit of Support, a legal contract in which the person who requested the reunification promises to financially assist the arriving relative. That bars the use of some public benefits.
Their applications for adjustment do not require an affidavit of support, but authorities can investigate whether their visas should have been denied at the time of application because of the public charge ground of inadmissibility.
That’s why it’s important for visitors, specially at the beginning of their stays, toconduct themselves according to their visasand avoid any government assistance that could be considered as immigration fraud, since they obtained visas as self-supporting visitors and wound up receiving government assistance.
Parole is a humanitarian way of entering the United States that amounts to atemporary admission. The government generally issues Cubans with parole a provisional work permit while they wait a permanent status.
Few Cubans have been receiving parole since the Obama administration ended the so-called “wet foot, dry foot” policy in 2017.
However, those who enter under parole are eligible for certain forms of government assistance in the nature of refugee help, and therefore the public charge rule generally does not apply in those cases.
Citizenship applicants who may have been inadmissible aliens
Although the new rule does not affect applications for U.S. citizenship, officials have the power to review whether an immigrant was inadmissible under the concept of public charge at the time the foreigner became a permanent resident.
There’s no question that many Cubans who are permanent residents should worry when they apply for citizenship, if they have received public assistance and are subject to the public charge ground of inadmissibility.
That’s one of the most dangerous aspects of the new public charge rule — that immigration officials considering a naturalization application will be able to investigate the start of the residence process to determine whether the applicant was admissible and not a public charge.
If an immigrant arrived under the Cuban Family Reunification Program, submitted an affidavit support and became a resident, that person should not have access to government assistance.
We have to investigate that, first to determine whether the person entered with an affidavit of support at the time; second to determine if the person requested public assistance; and third to verify whether the assistance received falls under the definition of public charge.
It is recommended that interested personsrequest a copy of their immigration filesunder the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), to gather the information so we can recommend whether the immigrant should or should not apply for citizenship. The last thing we want is to risk the permanent resident status with a citizenship application that should not have been filed.
However, those who qualify because they were issued parole and have been in the United States for one year and one day, and have an asylum application pending in an immigration court, should continue to appear at their immigration court hearings regardless of whether they qualify under the Cuban Adjustment Act.
That’s a legal issue that has changed a lot, especially for the children of Cubans who were born outside the island and want to apply for residency under the Cuban Adjustment Act.
U.S. immigration officials last year issued a memorandum describing the criteria for establishing whether a person is a Cuban citizen. In short, they have to have a Cuban passport or a certificate of Cuban citizenship or nationality recorded in the Civil Registry in Havana.
The authorities no longer accept a certificate from a Cuban consulate in another country documenting that the person was born abroad to Cuban parents. Cubans cannot use it to apply for residence under the Adjustment Act
Before the foreign-born children of Cubans apply for adjustment, they should first make sure they have these documents.