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Congress considers bills to restrict welfare for Cuban immigrants

Congress considers bills to restrict welfare for Cuban immigrants

The proposed legislation would make most Cuban immigrants ineligible for
refugee money, medical benefits and other assistance.
BY MEGAN O’MATZ
Sun Sentinel

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA.
A bill to restrict welfare for Cuban immigrants would save the U.S.
government $2.45 billion over the next decade, congressional analysts
estimate.

The proposed legislation, introduced by U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo and
Sen. Marco Rubio, both Florida Republicans, would make most Cuban
immigrants ineligible for refugee money, medical benefits and other
assistance unless they prove they are political refugees persecuted by
the Castro government.

The Congressional Budget Office, which provides nonpartisan budget and
economic data for policymakers, studied the proposal and calculated the
potential savings.

The bill is expected to cut spending by $50 million in the first year,
and $2.4 billion more through 2026, Curbelo’s office said.

“With all the talk about paying for Zika virus funding, maybe this is
one of the ways we can pay for some of that. But let’s get it done,”
Rubio, who is shepherding an identical bill in the Senate, told his
colleagues last week.

The legislative proposal followed a Sun Sentinel investigation showing
Cubans taking advantage of U.S. welfare then returning to the
Communist-led island to visit multiple times or even to live – while
still collecting U.S. aid.

“What we’ve seen people (do to) abuse the system over and over again is
they figure out a relative in the U.S. that goes to the bank every
month, takes a cut and sends the rest to them,” Rubio said on the Senate
floor.

“That’s your money that’s being sent. The American people are generous
people, but right now those who abuse the system are taking American
taxpayers for fools and we need to stop this.”

Large numbers of Cubans are fleeing to the U.S. since the Obama
administration renewed diplomatic relations in late 2014. Those who
reach land can stay, even if they arrive illegally.

Most say they are coming to find better work opportunities in the U.S.,
and because they fear the U.S. will eventually end their special status
and unique advantages as newcomers.

After a year and a day they can become permanent U.S. legal residents.
Many then go back and forth between the U.S. and Cuba to visit and bring
money or goods to family and friends.

These return trips have raised questions about why Cubans are treated as
political refugees – entitled to generous U.S. aid – when they quickly
return to the island that oppressed them.

Immigrants from most other nations are barred from collecting aid in the
U.S. for their first five years. Those here illegally are not eligible
at all.

Curbelo, the son of Cuban exiles, titled his bill the “Cuban Immigrant
Work Opportunity Act,” saying: “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.”

The legislation would not apply to those already living in the United
States.

Despite the enormous potential savings cited by the Congressional Budget
Office, the figure is low when compared with the full cost of aid to
Cubans calculated by the Sun Sentinel.

In its investigation, the newspaper estimated that welfare to Cuban
immigrants–federal refugee assistance, food stamps and aid to seniors
and the disabled–cost more than $680 million a year.

About 42 percent of that is Supplemental Security Income – cash for
impoverished seniors. The Sun Sentinel found large numbers of elderly
Cubans immigrating here and immediately getting such aid even though
they never held jobs here.

Source: Congress considers bills to restrict welfare for Cuban
immigrants | In Cuba Today –
www.incubatoday.com/news/article80851537.html

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