President Joe Biden is full of compassion for Hispanics fleeing their home countries — with one exception, that is: liberty-loving Cubans.
The president is abandoning practically all controls on the southern border. Despite mouthing the words “Do not come,” the White House has adopted policies that send a clear, contrary message: “Cross illegally, and you can stay.” At the same time, Biden is slamming the door on Cubans setting sail for Florida to escape a Communist dictatorship. These anti-Communists aren’t the kind of Hispanics that Democrats like.
Consider the damning contrast: Customs and Border Protection agents on the southern border are literally reaching out to help illegals wade across the Rio Grande. But under orders from Biden, the Coast Guard is capturing Cubans heading for America in dinghies and rickety rafts and depositing them back on their island’s totalitarian shores.
Floridians with seaworthy craft are assembling flotillas to sail just outside the 3-mile mark around Cuba. But Homeland Security is warning that if they rescue Cuban defectors and bring them to America, they will face $250,000 fines and five years in prison. They should let their freedom-seeking brethren drown instead?
Apologists of this cruel policy have suggested that Team Biden wants to avoid a repeat of the Mariel boatlift of 1980, when more than 125,000 Cubans landed on US shores in five months. But even that figure pales in comparison with the influx Biden is allowing at the southern border.
In the month of June alone, a staggering 188,000 illegal immigrants were counted by Border Patrol, in addition to the thousands who slipped through undetected. Biden’s planning to loosen southern border controls more, allowing single adults to remain, not just families and unaccompanied minors.
What could explain the indifference to Cubans? Possibly a political calculation. Most Cuban migrants who gain citizenship vote for Republicans. They have endured the horrors of socialism and have no appetite for the Democrats’ socialist rhetoric. Other Hispanic voters tend to support Democrats, according to Pew Research. The more of them who settle here, Dems calculate, the bigger the future Democratic electorate.
Yet Biden’s policy represents a rupture with Washington’s historic approach.
Biden’s secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, told Cubans on July 13, “If you take to the sea,” you will not be allowed in the United States, even if the would-be migrants can prove “a well-founded fear of persecution or torture.” That’s 180 degrees from how fleeing Cubans used to be treated.
Beginning in 1995, Cubans fleeing oppression were given special treatment when they reached US shores. They were welcomed and put on a path to citizenship. That changed in former President Barack Obama’s final year, as he tried to build a relationship with the Communists in Havana. Among other concessions, he ended the generous policy toward Cuban exiles and put them on the same footing as any other illegal immigrants.
Now, under Biden, they’re being treated worse than other migrants.
Under American law, asylum seekers can resettle here if they demonstrate a “well-founded fear” that returning to their homeland would cost them their lives. That law has been stretched like a rubber band for southern border crossers.
Cubans can actually demonstrate a “well-founded fear,” but Mayorkas is hinting that Cubans who seek asylum will be interviewed offshore and resettled to a third country such as Australia, not allowed in the United States.
Yes, Biden is praising the Cuban rebels and deploring Communism, but his deeds don’t match up. He has dithered on restoring Cuba’s Internet connections, which the Communist thugs cut off. And he has made no move to fortify the rebels with food, medicine, computers and cell phones — the tools of revolution. Instead, he is slow-walking the US response, appointing “working groups” and making ceremonial gestures like sanctions on regime figures who don’t do business with the US anyway.
Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, Syria and Venezuela — a roster of tyrants — support the Cuban dictator and warn America not to interfere, which is a clear sign Washington needs to provide help.
History is in the making, and delay could tilt the scale against a free Cuba.
Betsy McCaughey is a former lieutenant governor of New York.