Two Texas congressmen have introduced legislation designed to roll back the automatic benefits and legal status that Cuban immigrants receive shortly after reaching U.S. ports.
The filing comes as Texas — specifically the region from Laredo to Brownsville — has seen a surge of Cuban immigrants seeking entry to the United States.
The Correcting Unfair Benefits for Aliens Act, by U.S. Reps. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, and Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, would repeal the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act and the subsequent "wet foot/dry foot" policy, which allows most Cubans who reach a U.S. land port to apply for a designation that allows them to apply for legal residency status, or a “green card,” after living in the country for a year.
“It is the sense of Congress that Cuban nationals should be treated under the same immigration rules as nationals of other countries,” the text of the proposed legislation reads.
In a statement on Wednesday, Cuellar said the current policies are “relics of a bygone era.”
“With the president’s historic visit to the country this week as well as the normalization of relations, we shouldn’t lose sight of the thousands of people from regions like Central America who are fleeing serious threats from drug violence and face a disadvantage when compared with Cubans,” Cuellar said.
He added that a permanent solution should come by way of comprehensive immigration reform, but that “ a select group” shouldn’t receive special treatment while the country waits for an immigration overhaul.
Farenthold added: “The state of Texas is already seeing a 60 percent increase in migrants attempting to enter the state from Cuba, and we should hold all immigrants to the same standards in order to ensure the safety and vitality of our communities.”
From October 2015 to February 2016, more than 18,500 Cubans arrived at Texas’ Laredo field office of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which includes ports from Del Rio to Brownsville. That adds to the figures from the 2015 fiscal year, when 28,371 crossed at the same ports. During the 2015 fiscal year, more than 43,150 arrived at the 20 CBP field offices in the United States that process immigrants.
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, has also called for a change to the current policies. He told The Texas Tribune in December that the policy wasn't fair to other immigrants who have to wait several years after applying for legal entry. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, whose father fled Cuba, has said a repeal of the Cuban Adjustment Act should only come after Cuba is truly free and the Castro regime is no longer in power.
“The [Cuban Adjustment Act] is a recognition of the oppressive communist regime in Cuba that engages in political repression, torture and murder,” Cruz said in October. “I look forward to the day when the Cuban Adjustment Act is no longer necessary because a free Cuba will have returned.”
The surge comes as President Obama continues his efforts to re-establish ties with the communist country and the Castro regime. Some analysts have said many Cubans fear the thaw would lead to a change to immigration laws that ends the special status they receive.