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GOP senator presses officials on Cubans facing deportations

GOP senator presses officials on Cubans facing deportations
By Jordain Carney

Sen. Chuck Grassley is pressing the administration for information on
Cuban nationals in the U.S., suggesting the administration failed to get
Havana’s cooperation on repatriation during recent talks.

The Iowa Republican in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry and
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said the recent negotiations
between the United States and Cuba offered a “singular opportunity” to
require that Cuba take back some of its nationals, who have been ordered
to leave the U.S., as a requirement to restoring diplomatic ties.

“I write to you to express my concern about the Cuban government’s
continuing failure to cooperate with the United States in the
repatriation of its nationals with final orders of removal and my
disappointment that the Administration has failed to use the
negotiations leading up to the re-establishment of diplomatic
relations… to address the issue of repatriation,” Grassley, the
chairman of the Judiciary Committee, wrote in a letter sent late last
week but released on Monday.
Grassley added that he wants the two administration officials to explain
if, and to what extent, U.S. diplomats tried to get Cuba to commit to
taking back nationals who have been ordered to leave the U.S.

He’s also pushing Kerry and Johnson to say if repatriation would be
included in further talks with Cuba, and why they think it will be
successful since “the U.S. has given away the enormous
political/diplomatic leverage it had against Cuba.”

He also wants to know if the administration has ruled out using visa
sanctions, which would make it harder for Cubans to to the United
States, to try to get Cuba to cooperate.

The United States and Cuba reopened their embassies earlier this year as
part of a months-long effort to restore and improve diplomatic relations
between the two countries.

Grassley also wants the administration to hand a range of details on
Cuban nationals in the country that have been ordered to leave,
including how many there are in total, how many have criminal records,
and a breakdown of how long they have been ordered to leave.

The Iowa Republican, in the letter, said that he believes there are
currently 34,000 Cuban nationals in the United States who have been
ordered to leave, and that “many are apparently convicted criminals.”

He also points to 2011 testimony from a former Immigration and
Enforcement official who laid out steps the government could take to try
to force countries to take back their nationals. Grassley wants the
administration to hand over a timeline of what, if any, steps have been
taken.

He added that if steps haven’t been taken he wants an explanation
because “Cuban recalcitrance regarding repatriation has been a problem
for decades, and tens of thousands of Cuban criminals with final orders
of removal freely walk the streets of the United States.”

The letter from Grassley comes after the Iowa Republican slammed the
administration last week for what he suggested was a slow response rate
to his inquires. He’s blocking roughly 20 foreign officer nominations
over the incident.

Source: GOP senator presses officials on Cubans facing deportations |
TheHill –
http://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/senate/250787-goper-presses-administration-on-distressing-failure-with-cuba

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