Cuban Doctors Able to Defect to USA through Little Exposed Immigration Program

by admin on January 19, 2011

Cubans trying to apply for a visa to the United States often have their work cut out for them, in both a physical and emotional sense. Most Cubans have to reach US shores before they can begin to apply for an immigrant visa, as they face so many hurdles from the Cuban government in the US visa application process.

According to the US Embassy (United States Interests Section) in Havana, Cuba:

The Cuban government does not allow Cuban citizens who obtain U.S. immigrant visas or transportation letters to depart Cuba unless they also possess a Cuban exit permit (tarjeta blanca). Cubans immigrating to the United States are subject to various fees levied by the Government of Cuba, totaling approximately US $850.00 per person. The United States government plays no part in this process, and cannot intervene on behalf of any individual to assist or expedite the issuance of Cuban exit permits. 

However, a Wall Street Journal article from January 15, 2011 reported that Cuban doctors and possibly other health care workers might have a loophole to receive refugee status in the USA, if they are participating in Cuba’s Medical Brigades program.

Started in August 2006, the United States’ Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program (CMPP) allows Cuban medical workers studying or working for the Cuban government in a third country to enter the United States. According to the CMPP webpage, the US Department of Homeland Security can offer parole to Cubans under “INA section 212(d)(5)(A), 8 U.S.C. 1182(d)(5)(A) (permits parole of an alien into the United States for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit); see also 8 CFR 212.5(c) & (d) (discretionary authority for granting parole).”

The Wall Street Journal obtained data that shows that from 2006 through Dec 16, 2010, at least 1,574 Cuban doctors successfully received CMPP visas issued by U.S. Consulates in 65 countries.

Cuba has been sending medical brigades to locations around the world since the early seventies, in return for payment estimated to be as much as $8 billion per year. According to The Post article, the doctors and other medical workers are employed by local health authorities and have no control over their assigned location, salaries, hours or work conditions. In effect, the recent US Immigration policy has served to impede Cuba’s program, by enticing Cubans working for the program worldwide to defect from their positions to come to the US.

Cuban doctors often face denial of their request for exit permission to go to the United States, even in instances where they meet the requirements under well-established legal channels.

This US Immigration initiative is therefore likely to cause an increase in the number of us visa applicants in the coming years, as more doctors and medical professionals from Cuba look for a viable way to enter the United States.

Whether a Cuban Medical Brigade in the US would lead to mass defections is unclear. However, the USA turned down Cuba’s offer for medical assistance in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

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