Donald Trump has made it excruciatingly, painfully clear where he stands on the issue of immigration from Mexico. But now he's showing that his discomfort with Latino immigration isn't limited to Mexicans.
During a recent campaign stop in Florida, home to some 1.5 million Cuban exiles and immigrants, Trump was asked what he thinks about the Cuban Adjustment Act—aka the "wet foot/dry foot" policy— that allows any Cuban who reaches U.S. soil to remain in the country legally and apply for residency.
“I don’t think that’s fair,” Trump told the Tampa Bay Times in an interview. “I mean why would that be a fair thing?”
Trump added,“You know we have a system now for bringing people into the country, and what we should be doing is bringing in people who are terrific people who have terrific records of achievement, accomplishment.”
“You have people that have been in the system for years [waiting to immigrate to the United States], and it’s very unfair when people who just walk across the border, and you have other people that do it legally,” Trump said.
The U.S.' cold-war era immigration policy towards Cuba has come under increased scrutiny over the past year since Presidents Obama and Castro started normalizing diplomatic relations at the end of 2014. A subsequent investigation by the South Florida Sun Sentinel revealed that some Cuban immigrants were coming to the U.S. for welfare benefits and then returning to live on the communist island, where the money goes a lot further.
The increased scrutiny and pressure to revoke the outdated Cuban immigration policy has become a divisive issue in South Florida’s Cuban-American community, which for years has been led by Cuban exiles who fled the country in the 1960s vowing never to return until the communist government is replaced. Newer Cuban immigrants maintain closer ties to the island.
While Trump appears to be taking a tough stance on the policy, two of his leading rivals for the Republican nomination, both of whom are of Cuban descent, haven’t been as outspoken. In January, Republican presidential hopeful Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants, filed legislation that would require Cuban immigrants to demonstrate they were persecuted in Cuba in order to qualify for food stamps and Medicaid. That would mean any new Cuban arrivals would go through the same process as asylum seekers from any other country.
Rubio, however, has been vague about whether Cuban’s overall fast-track immigration status should been done away with completely, even as he hardened his position on he would handle a government program that has allowed hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children to remain in the country.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, an immigration hawk who is the son of a Cuban father, has repeatedly criticized Rubio for taking a soft position on immigration. But Cruz thinks the Cuban Adjustment Act (CAA) should stay in place while Cuba’s government remains communist.
“The CAA is a recognition of the oppressive communist regime in Cuba that engages in political repression, torture and murder,” Cruz told the Miami Herald in October. “I look forward to the day when the Cuban Adjustment Act is no longer necessary because a free Cuba will have returned.”
Trump, on the other hand, did not offer any thoughtful comments or recommendations on Cuban immigration policy, other than to complain that it's unfair.