Tomas Regalado, “Washington Refuses To Recognize That There Is A Migration Crisis”
Tomas Regalado, “Washington Refuses To Recognize That There Is A
Migration Crisis” / 14ymedio, Mario Penton
Posted on February 6, 2016
14ymedio, Mario J. Penton, Miami, 3 February 2016 — Miami Mayor Tomas
Pedro Regalado (born Havana, 1947), says that his is not prepared to
cope with the surge of Cuban rafters who come daily to the coast of
Florida. He came to the United States as a teenager and was a journalist
before winning election in 2009. Today he opposes the repeal of the
Cuban Adjustment Act and also opposed the opening of a Cuban consulate
in Miami because of the costs for security that would be borne by the city.
Penton. In Miami, you breathe Cuba everywhere you go. Can you talk about
a Cuban city?
Regalado. It may seem politically correct that the mayor of Miami says
that this city has been made by Cubans, Colombians, Nicaraguans, but
the reality is that it has been made by Cubans, who opened the door so
that many other nationalities could work, triumph and achieve the
American dream. I was born in Cuba, but I grew up here. When I arrived
as a teenager, there were still signs in many rental buildings reading:
“No Cubans, no Jews, no dogs.” We had to overcome these challenges so
Cubans created Miami. Those who created this Miami were the same as
those who contributed to the success of Cuba in the fifties.
Why hasn’t their “Cubanness” been extinguished? Simply because among the
first generations many of the wounds have not healed and the exiles pass
on this historic legacy to their children and grandchildren. The Cuban
family is different from family in the United States. We grew up with
grandparents and the family permanently together. My dad, who was a
political prisoner, when he got here he picked up my daughter at school
while I worked and he told her the stories of being a political
prisoner. Today, my daughter, who has never set foot in Cuba, knows
Cuban history as well as anyone who came in the ‘60s. In addition, the
United States does not require you to break with your roots.
Penton. Tell me about the new Cuban Miami?
Regalado. It is made up of people who have recently arrived from the
island. It doesn’t have political passion so much, as a tremendous
appetite to regain all the years that have been lost, hungry and in need.
They go down the path of consumerism, but this also has an impact on
Cuba. When they arranged the community trips in 1979 [with
Cuba-Americans returning to Cuba for the first time since they left],
under the Carter administration, they created a boiling point that led
to the events in the Peruvian embassy and the Mariel Boatlift. Cubans
went there with photos of their new cars, their modern houses and
clothes. Miami is always going to gravitate to Cuba. It’s not about
competition, but simply that here, in the United States, if you do the
right things, go by the book and work hard, the law of probability says
that you are going to succeed. In Cuba, if you go by the book and do the
right thing, the law of probability says that you are going to be broke.
Penton. Among the generations that came between the ’60s and the ’80s,
is there a bias toward the newcomers?
Regalado. Cubans get along because everyone has a relative they left
behind, a friend in the village. When the time comes for solidarity, we
think more with our hearts than with our wallets. Someone looks for an
apartment for a compatriot, someone else gives him a mattress… Are their
rotten apples among those who come? Of course. This is something we have
everywhere in the world.
Penton. Do you think that those who come now should continue to get the
rights to the legal benefits the United States gives them?
Regalado. The proposal to amend the benefits that Cubans receive has
nothing to do with changing the Cuban Adjustment Act in the United
States Code. To change that they must get a two-thirds vote in both
Houses of Congress. There is no political will to do that and I do not
support doing that. The benefits Cubans get are the same ones Syrian
refugees are getting. The Department of Health and Social Welfare pays
agencies and the State of Florida channels the funds to help these
people so they can get ahead in their first months here.
What has been abused? Effectively, the abuses are technical: a married
couple divorces before hitting land to get double benefits and other
inventions. Fighting against these abuses can favor the permanence of
the Cuban Adjustment Act.
The Cuban Adjustment Act is a privilege that we must not give up or
allow to be eliminated, because they have not eliminated the causes for
which it emerged. The root of this law is the dictatorship in Cuba. The
policy of “wet foor/dry foot” is not a law, it is a directive that any
president can remove.
Penton. Is Miami ready for this wave of immigrants?
Regalado. No, we do not know how many are coming, or when, or what their
circumstances are. Volunteer agencies receive money from the United
States budget, from the refugee division. The extraordinary rise in the
number of rafters is eating into the budgets of these agencies and
overwhelming them. This month they ran out of funds on January 7th.
On the other hand, three groups of 13 people came from Ecuador and they
were living on the streets. I picked them up and took them to Camilo’s
House [a refuge]. Our facilities are full, because in the winter many
homeless from the north come to Florida, and this year there are more
than in 2015.
We have to deal with our own homeless. The law doesn’t allow people to
live in the streets. Right now we have 64 families living in hotels and
by March we are going to have used up all the money we have to pay for
Penton. Have you made any official request to the federal government
and the Congress?
Regalado. Yes, to both, but there is no definite answer yet. The federal
government does not want to publicly acknowledge that there is a
migration crisis or a humanitarian crisis, because for the White House,
in Cuba everything is fine. If they are planning a trip for President
Barack Obama to the island, how is Obama going to go if the headlines
are saying there is a Cuban migrant crisis? The reality is that since
relations have been formally reestablished we have seen a rise in the
number of rafters and more people crossing the border, as well as those
who come legally and Cubans with Spanish citizenship. Some of them
became Spanish citizens under the Law of Historic Memory [which allows
the grandchildren of Spaniards to claim citizenship], and they get on a
plane in Havana with a Spanish passport and disembark in Miami with a
The federal government should increase the grants to the volunteer
agencies, issue executive orders to speed up the granting of Social
Security, immigration documents and work permits. These same agencies
are responsible for offering work for those refugees and homes and other
parts of the United States. The other solution is that local governments
give us a cushion of money to be able to handle more cases of need, if
necessary. The families that we are already taking care of cost us
$900,000 a year.
Penton. Do you propose, then, to increase the budget?
Regalado. Unfortunately, the city of Miami is not a republic and
therefore we cannot have our own distinct immigration policy, only
The solution is immigration reform that would legalize the 12 million in
the United States who are in limbo, and increase the number of visas for
Cubans and interview them at the embassy on the island to determine who
will be accepted and who will not. Those coming through Costa Rica are,
for the most part, professionals, but here there is no background check,
no one asks who you are.
They enter because they enter. In Laredo they say “I am Cuban” and they
enter. Because we don’t have any authority to dictate immigration
patterns, we say, “Are more Cubans coming?” Then we have to ask for more
Penton. Will this new wave of immigrants change the traditional
Republican vote in South Florida?
Regalado. I don’t know. The greatest sin is that in the United States
voting is not compulsory. Many young people do not vote. But if there is
something we can say it is that this still isn’t having a political
impact that is moving the positions of members of Congress or
presidential candidates or local officials.
Penton. Why don’t you want to see a Cuban consulate in Miami?
Regalado. The only argument of those who support a consulate is that it
is going to solve the problems Cubans here because they will be able to
do their business without traveling and therefore at a cheaper cost.
But there is a cost. Given that in America anyone can protest and stand
at the entrance and say what they think without the police being able to
arrest them, the police will have to guard the consulate at all times to
protect the staff, those entering the consulate and those protesting. We
have experienced having the Venezuelan consulate which was opened six
months ago, with daily protests and a cost to the city of $600,000 in
extra pay to the police to guard it.
Penton. What are the prospects for the relationship between Cuba and
Miami over the next five years?
Regalado. There can only be a radical change if Fidel, Raul Castro,
Ramiro Valdes and all those commanders die tomorrow. Then, with a new
generation that assumes power and is more flexible, we can have a
dialogue. There will be no changes in the relationship simply because
Cuba has not changed. Maybe the change is that the Ladies in White will
face beatings not every Sunday but every other Sunday.
Or that they will fine the produce vendors with their carts not 10,000
pesos but 500 pesos. I have not seen any change: the opposition leaders
do not have access to the media, and those investing in Cuba cannot hire
their own employees.
I don’t see them allowing freedom of movement, or holding a public
meeting where a Cuban from Miami can talk about freedom and democracy.
Nor do I agree with those who say a new generation of entrepreneurs is
emerging in Cuba. Those who say that are newcomers to the Cuba issue.
With a little historic memory we can go back to the Farmers’ Free
Markets (MLC), where production in Cuban multiplied and thousands of
peasants got rich, but it also began to corrupt the Committees for the
Defense of the Revolution and the People’s Power and the regime
Once you have full freedom, free press, free elections in Cuba, I’m sure
Miami is going to flood the island. Not that it is not doing so now, but
then it will really be something.
Source: Tomas Regalado, “Washington Refuses To Recognize That There Is A
Migration Crisis” / 14ymedio, Mario Penton | Translating Cuba –