The Irony of U.S. Cuban Immigration Policy: The Privileging of Cubans and Its Unintended Consequences

Susan Eckstein, Boston University

Policies are one matter, outcomes are another. What entitlements did the Eisenhower through Obama Administrations exclusively offer Cubans and why, and what impact did they have? Did more Cubans than nationals of other countries awarded no comparable entitlements come to America as a consequence? After briefly summarizing unique Cuban entitlements successive Administrations offered Cubans during the years of Fidel Castro’s, and his brother Raul’s, rule, and the “path dependent” basis of the privileging, I address unintended consequences the privileging unleashed, including from a cross-national perspective. I compare rates of Cuban with rates of Haitian and Dominican immigration: from two other Caribbean countries of roughly similar size to Cuba. The comparisons help “tease out” the extent to which Cuban immigration is and is not distinctive. While the U.S. subjected Haitians to far more exclusionary and discriminatory practices than Cubans, it typically treated Dominicans the same as other immigrants—neither offering them special entry entitlements nor targeting them for exclusion. Nonetheless, in many years more Dominicans than Cubans, and in some years even more Haitians than Cubans, became lawful permanent residents, a paradox to be explained. I also will address the impact Trump’s anti-immigration policies have had on Cuban immigration.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 135. Laws, Rights, Policies: Migrants in the Americas