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U.S. Representatives Response to The Seven Mile Bridge Bungle
Wednesday, January 11, 2006 By: Juan Paxety
Letter from both Diaz-Balarts and Ros-Lehtinen
From Net For Cuba
Letter of The Members of Congress Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart to The U.S. Department of Homeland Security
January 10, 2006
The Honorable Michel Chertoff
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
3891 Nebraska Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20528-0001
Dear Secretary Chertoff:
On September 17, 2003, while reiterating our profound opposition to the “Clinton Castro Migration Accord” (CCMA) of May 1995, we wrote to then Assistant Secretary of State Roger Noriega and Ambassador Otto Reich, with a series of recommendations to address the inconsistencies and arbitrariness of the “CCMA”. At that time, we were informed that the “CCMA” was under review and that our recommendations were being considered.
Since we sent our letters, we have witnessed a record number of human trafficking cases from Cuba, a dramatic increase of Cuban nationals attempting to flee the island, an extraordinary amount of refugees repatriated without regard for the merits of their asylum petitions, and, basically, an overall process that constitutes an embarrassment to the United States.
The most recent repatriation of 15 Cuban refugees, who did reach U.S. territory by touching the Seven Mile Bridge in the Florida Keys, is simply the most recent example of an arbitrary process that uses any excuse to repatriate as many Cuban nationals as possible without due process.
Currently, 75% of all Cuban nationals who enter the United States and file for asylum have their applications approved. However, of the 11,137 Cuban nationals intercepted at sea from May 1995, through 2005, about 301 Cuban refugees were taken to the Guatanamo Naval Base (GITMO).
This means that less than 3% of Cuban nationals intercepted by the U.S. Coast Guard were taken to GITMO having demonstrated a “credible fear of persecution.” The disparity in the treatment of these two groups is most concerning, and underscores the severe inequities of the existing process on board the Coast Guard vessels.
We hereby reiterate our strong opposition to the immoral “CCMA” and urge that existing policy be reviewed forthwith. In an effort to remedy the obvious disparity outlined above, we, once again, recommend the following:
- An immediate, through review of how the interviews of Cuban nationals intercepted at sea are conducted and “credible fear of persecution” is determined;
- Legal counsel from recognized Volunteer Agencies should be allowed aboard the Coast Guard vessels in order to provide legal advice to refugees;
- If it is determined that it is not feasible to have legal counsel on board U.S. Coast Guard vessels, all Cuban nationals intercepted at sea should be taken to GITMO for their cases to be properly evaluated and for the refugees to be afforded procedural rights consistent with Cuban nationals who seek asylum on land;
- A percentage of the unallocated reserve of 20,000 refugees in FY 2005 should be reallocated to Cuban nationals who are not relocated to a third country after 120 days of the date they arrive at GITMO; and
- The United States Interests Section should issue a report on the status of Cubans who have been repatriated to determine if they have sought and obtained refugee questionnaires as well as the status of their applications for refugee visas.
We believe that even though the very nature of this “Migration Accord” between the Cuban totalitarian regime and the United States runs contrary to the Cuban people’s aspiration for democracy and the United States’ rich tradition of granting refuge to the oppressed, these recommendations would significantly alleviate the detrimental impact of the “Migration Accord.”
We urge you to review these recommendations, and hereby request a meeting with you as soon as possible to discuss their possible implementation.
Lincoln Diaz-Balart Ileana Ros-Lehtinen Mario-Diaz-Balart