After 17D: Cuba-United States
Behind the Fantasy of the “Land of Freedom”
By DUNIA TORRES GONZÁLEZ
December 9, 2019.
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
A little over a year ago, a childhood friend came to my house talking about opportunities, about his dream of knowing the world. A few days later, I learned about his visa application to travel to Santiago de Chile and, later, about his arrival in the South American country, leaving behind his wife and his newborn child. His intention was to use Chile as a bridge to the United States, but he needed money.
Immediately he began to load boxes in a market and was filled with hope when he received his first payment. However, difficulties soon arose: the rent was very high and due to paperwork he could not find a steady job. The shoe was so tight that he tried to reduce expenses. He moved to the countryside as a pine cutter. It wasn’t an easy job, but it ensured free lodging and food. To get on his way, any effort was small.
Days passed and the money was not much, not enough for the crossing. Without thinking about what it meant to cross South America with an empty pocket, together with some of his companions, with whom he shared a camp, they had defined the date of departure, and his decision was not long in coming. The news came in snippets and the family despaired: the crossing of the jungle, persecution of the coastal police who made them leave the boat and swim to the shore, kidnapping in Nicaragua, ransom request to the wife who had to pay money she did not have, the arrival in Mexico and the effort to reach the border.
According to experts in these matters, they had chosen the perfect date to emigrate to the United States, because afterwards, the situation would get worse.
Later, the Trump administration pushed for new and crueler measures against immigrants. In his outburst, he even suggested shooting at people’s legs, building an electrified border wall and a pit infested with caimans and snakes in order to stop them crossing the border with Mexico. Many Cubans were detained by the National Guard while attempting to cross the border illegally in Ciudad Juarez. The new U.S. government regulation prohibited those who had passed through a third country without seeking refuge from seeking asylum at the southern border.
“Don’t come, we will return you to your countries,” Trump said from the U.N. General Assembly. However, he still maintains the Cuban Adjustment Act, which, at the close of 2017 and counting the last 20 years, has benefited hundreds of thousands of Cuban immigrants, allowing them to legalize their stay in the U.S. with a visa when they spend a year and a day, even though they have exceeded the legal permanence of their documents.
The measures taken by the Washington government are increasing by the day, and not only in the case of Cuba, but in the entire region of Latin America and the Caribbean. With its hegemonic eagerness, the U.S. makes the international situation unsustainable, slows down the development of nations, plunders their natural resources and promotes puppet leaders, in whom there is no sign of defense of the less favored classes.
Faced with this instability, especially economic instability, countless people are deceived by the “promised land”, as well as the loss of human lives, trafficking in persons, sexual and/or labor abuse, or organ trafficking.
Thus, it turns out that the perpetrator becomes a victim of the wave of immigrants that it had promoted, and believes that it has the right to judge other nations with respect to the protection of human rights. One might wonder how it is possible to throw stones at a neighbor’s roof when yours is made of glass.
“An average of 544,000 people apply for residency annually,” according to U.S. federal government data. However, on August 12, 2019, the government’s decision to penalize migrants receiving social assistance by denying permanent residence or citizenship to foreigners who receive subsidies was made public. Four million migrants will find the process of receiving U.S. citizenship difficult because it constitutes a “public charge”. Under this new rule, legal immigrants living in the United States are included if they receive “one or more designated public benefits” for more than a year in a 36-month period. This measure affects programs such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP).
The case of Cubans, it seems, continues to be special. U.S. media reports state that the Cuban Adjustment Act continues to provide the necessary protection through “a provision from 1967-68 [according to which] being a public charge does not prohibit a Cuban from obtaining residency.
Finally, after waiting on a long list, he stepped on American soil. He already had his speech ready, which, if necessary, would include even a few tears. He would say that he had always opposed the “regime”, that he was persecuted and a victim of repression, that he couldn’t stand it anymore. When he didn’t really study because he wasn’t there for “that,” nor did he work because of the stress caused by dealing with the bosses. He lived as a spoiled child, despite being 30 years old, waiting for a fortune to fall from the sky. The worst thing is that this story is not exceptional; many Cubans emigrate to the United States and, without problems, exchange the integrity of their country and lend themselves to manipulation campaigns against Cuba on human rights.
Apparently the performance was convincing, although he later had to endure a month in prison. They did an interview and deemed him “credible”. After great efforts by his family, some acquaintances, also emigrants, gathered the amount they requested for bail, $5,000.00 USD. Others took charge of writing the letter in which they were responsible for him. With this act, supposedly, the doors of prosperity were opened to him.
He began his working life as a roofer, because it was the best thing he could achieve with his illegal immigrant status. Of course, it wasn’t a serious contract and he wouldn’t have medical insurance, it was all off the books. There were days when they didn’t work because of the rain. He was committed to paying back the money he borrowed and was urged to get ahead. His first days in the United States were not good at all: he had no head for English, all the stress of the traumatic trip began to come out, he began to get sick and on top of that he had a work-related accident. One day, as he was climbing the roof of a house, the stairs collapsed, he fell and lost consciousness.
“Nothing that can’t be remedied,” he said, “but this is not what I imagined. I don’t have any papers yet. You have to work hard and the money you earn in one week goes like water out the other. It’s true that stores are full of things, but I can’t buy them. Now I’m going to start the paperwork to get a credit card.
After the conversation that day, I lost track of him. I couldn’t ask him if it was worth it, but I don’t think he can understand me…