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[Miami, Florida] Last Friday evening, Florida International University in Miami hosted a discussion of a book published by Susan Eckstein, Professor of Sociology and Global Studies at Boston University, on “Cuban Privilege: The Making of Immigrant Inequality in America.” The thesis of this book is that since 1959 and continuing today, even after the end of the Cold War, Cuban immigrants have received privileges and special treatment from the United States government that other immigrants have not received.
Professor Eckstein documents the various privileges: (1) Between 1959 and 1973, the U.S. government airlifted over 300,000 Cuban immigrants to the United States, including via Freedom Flights from Havana to Opa-Locka, Florida, without requiring that they obtain any other authorization to enter the country or otherwise comply with immigration laws. (2) Cuban immigrants received the benefits of a parole against deportation and the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966 (modeled on the Hungarian Adjustment Act adopted in response to the refugee flow after the failure of the revolt in 1956), which among other things shortened the period of eligibility for citizenship to only five years after arrival. (3) The U.S. government established Freedom Tower on Biscayne Boulevard, Miami, to process Cuban immigrants and provide them with guidance on finding jobs, which sometimes required that they relocate to other cities. Aid also included government cheese and Spam. (4) This privileged treatment continued in many respects even after the West’s victory in the Cold War with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.
The thesis of the book is generally correct and supported by empirical evidence, but the book fails to explore the reason that the United States government, with bipartisan support of Congresses having Democrat majorities, and with Democrat Presidents Kennedy and Johnson from 1961 through 1969, provided these privileges to Cuban immigrants.
The reason, of course, is that Americans of all parties and persuations were embarrassed, ashamed and mortified by the cowardice, duplicity, fecklessness, perfidy and treason displayed by President Jack Kennedy and his brother Attorney General Bobby during the Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961 and the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. The root of Cuban privilege is American guilt over the treatment of Cuba.
For example, Cubans received immigration privileges not offered to Haitians because there was no Haitian Brigade 2506 or Haitian Missile Crisis. Haiti never served as a forward operating base for socialist imperialism, or as the outpost in the Americas of the Evil Empire that threatened America during the Cold War, in contradiction of the Monroe Doctrine of 1823. Afro-Cuban immigrants receive the same privileges as Euro-Cuban immigrants. The same as Haiti is true of immigrants from other countries in Latin America, the Caribbean and elsewhere in the world that did not play Cuba’s role during the Cold War and continuing today.
Today Cuba remains the base for socialist imperialism throughout the Americas, most prominently in Venezuela starting with the Chavez regime in 1999, and continuing since then in Nicaragua, Ecuador, Bolivia, Brazil, Peru, Chile, Colombia, Argentina and Mexico. In America itself, Reverend Warnock, Senator from Georgia, served as youth pastor in a congregation that invited Fidel Castro to speak in 1995, and Congresswoman Karen Bass, newly-elected Mayor of Los Angeles, is a veteran of the Venceremos Brigade from the 1970’s in Cuba. Senator Sanders of Vermont and Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez of New York continue their admiration of the socialist model of government imposed in Cuba.
In addition to government-granted privileges, however, Cuban immigrants have other sources of privilege in America not coming from government: our Catholic background, our strong (if imperfect and sometimes suffocating) families, and our sense of community. Among Cuban immigrants you seldom see fathers abandoning their children, mothers aborting their unborn children or feeling that they had been punished with a baby, or brothers shooting each other. Woke progressives, like the author of this book, do not like Cuban immigrants because we, for the most part, have resisted the temptation to become dependent on government. This temptation comes via the expanded welfare state created since 1965 by LBJ’s War on Poverty for a Great Society, which has made dependents of many other immigrants from Latin America, the Caribbean and elsewhere. People dependent on government tend to vote for more government.
Cuban immigrants recognize many elements of the totalitarian socialist tyranny imposed by the Castro regime since 1959 in the woke progressive policies of America today: (1) Government separation of children from their parents in order to indoctrinate them in public schools. (2) Government censorship of free speech. (3) Government persecution of religious dissenters. (4) Government confiscation of firearms. (5) Government provision of all healthcare. (6) Government promotion of abortions.
And so, Cuban immigrants today make up an essential component of the MAGA and America First constituency that defends liberty in the Free State of Florida.
Eduardo Vidal is a lawyer and political activist. His family brought him when he was nine years old from Cuba to the USA, but now the rule of law has been eroded in the USA as well, and we are turning into Cuba and the rest of Latin America.