Updated 06:29 PM EDT, Mon, Apr 19, 2021

Cuban Migrant Crisis: Miami Congressman Carlos Curbelo Files Bill Ending Automatic Refugee Aid

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A Miami congressman has published a bill to end automatic U.S. welfare aid to Cuban immigrants.

Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo's legislation would alter an existing federal law that automatically treats Cuban immigrants as refugees or political asylum seekers, Miami Herald reported. This means that they are eligible for food stamps, Medicaid, disability insurance, and other assistance.

Curbelo, also a Cuban American, said that his bill "aims to reduce the abuse of America's generosity" by making sure that only people officially assigned as refugees will be given assistance, according to Sun Sentinel. Cubans have been collecting this aid faster and easier than other immigrants for decades.

Immigrants from other countries need to file a refugee or asylum claim and wait years for approval before being eligible for special benefits, Miami Herald wrote. Only Haitian immigrants, who already have the same status as Cubans under the Refugee Education Assistance Act of 1980, would maintain their special situation after legally arriving in the U.S.

"Cubans coming to the United States will have the same opportunity as immigrants from other nations like Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Central America - from any country - to work and earn an honest living while contributing to our great nation," Curbelo explained in a web video released on Tuesday, as quoted by Miami Herald. "Like asylum seekers from all over the world, those Cubans seeking public assistance benefits will have to demonstrate that they left Cuba fleeing political persecution and are unable to return under the current totalitarian regime."

In a two-part series titled "Easy Money," the Sun Sentinel wrote about how Cuban immigrants have systematically abused the benefits given to them by the U.S. government.

The investigation revealed how Cuban immigrants "collect U.S. welfare then return to the island, sometimes for good, negating the notion that they are refugees fleeing persecution," the news outlet added. They also found the rising numbers of elderly Cubans relocating to the U.S. and instantly receiving benefits even though they never had jobs in the country.

"Regrettably non-refugee Cubans have been collecting benefits from this program for years - some while living in Cuba. Others receive more in monthly benefits than American retirees who have worked for decades in our country," Curbelo further remarked in his video message, as quoted by Sun Sentinel. "As a member of Congress I cannot stand for this blatant abuse of American goodwill."

Curbelo's proposal would only affect Cubans who have immigrated to the U.S. after the law is passed, Miami Herald noted. The bill would also oblige Barack Obama's administration to validate the residency of Cubans getting federal benefits in order to eliminate those receiving the assistance while residing in Cuba.

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