For the past week, American news cycles have intensively covered the two crises currently unfolding in the Caribbean. In a matter of several days, the world witnessed the chaos and uncertainty which follows a presidential assassination in Haiti and a rare uprising against the murderous socialist regime in Cuba.
On July 7th, Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated during a nighttime attack on his private residence on the outskirts of Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince. By morning, the nation had devolved into a state of chaos as the assassination stoked fear and uncertainty in a country already gripped with a history of corruption and human rights abuses.
Four days later, on July 11th, the island of Cuba erupted into protests against the dictatorial socialist regime. With hundreds of thousands of Cubans taking to the streets to wave American Flags and chant "¡Libertad!," the protests were the largest the country had seen since before the 1959 Revolution and were met with unspeakable intimidation and violence from the communist party.
To the surprise of many, the Biden Administration preemptively issued a stern warning to potential refugees from the Caribbean islands of Cuba and Haiti, telling them not to attempt crossing the Florida Straits with hopes of being granted asylum if they reach Florida.
The Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas stated in a recent press conference on the turmoil in the Caribbean:
The time is never right to attempt migration by sea. To those who risk their lives doing so, this risk is not worth taking. Allow me to be clear: if you take to the sea, you will not come to the United States.
If individuals make, establish a well-founded fear of persecution or torture, they are referred to third countries for resettlement.
Unfortunately, surprised is now an appropriate adjective to describe the reaction many had watching members of the Biden Administration promise to follow, much less enforce federal immigration law.
So, many Americans concerned with immigration may find themselves asking - Where is this sudden commitment to an orderly, lawful immigration process coming from - Is it genuine? Why does it not apply to the southwest land border with Mexico, where a historic surge in illegal immigration currently overruns Border Patrol? Why does it not apply to the country's interior where ICE is so restricted in its mission to remove criminal aliens that some officers equate it to the department effectively being 'abolished'?
This blog will revisit three major crisis-driven migrations from the Caribbean in the late 20th century with similar circumstances to those witnessed today, before exploring three possible hypotheses explaining the apparent double standard perpetuated by the Biden Administration between migration by land and migration by sea.
A HISTORY OF CRISIS-DRIVEN MIGRATION
Both Cuba and Haiti have a prolific history of crisis-driven migration throughout the second half of the 20th century - particularly to the United States. Although crudely built rafts full of Haitian and Cuban migrants began landing in Florida by the 1970s, it wasn't until 1980 that maritime migration became a genuine crisis demanding action.
THE MARIEL BOATLIFT 1980
Between April 15th and October 31st, 1980, the Cuban dictatorship stewarded by the despot Fidel Castro formed an agreement with Cuban Americans and President Jimmy Carter to organize a mass exodus from the island for anyone who wanted to leave. The mass-emigration became known as The Mariel Boatlift, and an estimated 125,000 Cuban nationals emigrated during its lifetime.
The Carter Administration struggled immensely to develop a consistent and organized response to the boatlift and hundreds of thousands of new immigrants, many of whom had been released from Cuban mental institutions and jails. A 1985 Sun-Sentinel article claimed that an estimated 16,000 to 20,000 (13%-16%) "Marielitos" were convicted criminals. In addition, the seemingly overnight demographic change did nothing to ease already boiling race tensions in Miami, adding further fuel to the infamous 1980 McDuffie Riot following the tragic death of an African-American Miamian and Marine Corp veteran savagely beaten by four Dade County police officers following a traffic stop.
The ensuing political consequences of the mass emigration are often remembered as a hot topic during the 1980 election, which Jimmy Carter would lose just days after the end of the boatlift. President Reagan would then change protocol in 1981 to allow the U.S. Coast Guard to capture and repatriate migrants caught by boat - as well as jail migrants who made it to the U.S.
HAITIAN MIGRANT CRISIS 1991-1994
A decade later, maritime migration once again hit a crisis level after a military coup in Haiti saw an exiled president's supporters persecuted in the streets of the island nation between 1991 and 1994. By 1992, just one year after the overthrow of democratically elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, 38,000 Haitian refugees were intercepted attempting to flee the island. For context, in the decade prior [1971-1981], 25,000 refugees were intercepted fleeing Haiti despite the dictatorships and juntas that ruled with an iron fist during that time.
Bridging the presidencies of both George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton, the Haitian refugee crisis faced the same organizational and political catastrophes President Carter faced a decade earlier, this time, in addition to the global implications of the HIV pandemic. President Bush continued the protocols enacted by his predecessor in 1981, redirecting migrants from recalcitrant countries to Guantanamo Bay to stay in refugee processing centers, before turning the focus to repatriation in 1992.
Despite orienting a large portion of his 1992 presidential campaign around the humanitarian aspect of migration and condemning the refugee camp at Guantanamo Bay, Bill Clinton nevertheless continued the practice of forced repatriation until approximately 270 Haitians remained at Guantanamo, all were HIV+ and thus inadmissible until a court order in 1993. It would still be under President Bill Clinton that the third massive maritime migration would take place in 1994.
CUBAN RAFTER CRISIS 1994
Coinciding with the gradual end of the Haitian migrant crisis, 1994 witnessed another Cuban migrant crisis spurred again by the desire to escape an oppressive socialist regime. Following protests in 1994, known as the "Maleconazo Uprising," Castro once again allowed all those who wanted a chance to flee the socialist utopia of Cuba, to do so. While around 10,800 Cubans fled the island between 1991 and Castro's offer in 1994, 33,000 Cubans set out on makeshift rafts to brave the Florida Straits almost immediately after Castro's declaration.
Hoping to avoid the political implications of an extended migration crisis, President Clinton announced that any Cubans or Haitians intercepted at sea would be redirected to refugee camps at Guantanamo Bay. It would not be until May 1995 that the Clinton Administration would announce that most Cuban migrants held at Guantanamo would be allowed to immigrate to the U.S.
In addition to resolution for the Cubans at Guantanamo, "The Cuban Rafter Crisis" spurred the Clinton Administration to create the "wet foot, dry foot" policy. Under this agreement, the U.S. would allow any Cuban migrant who made it to the U.S. to apply for asylum while returning any migrant caught on the high seas to Cuba (who now agreed to accept them back) - rather than redirecting them to U.S. refugee camps. "Wet foot, dry foot" was terminated in 2017 by President Obama; Cuban nationals who have entered the United States illegally since then, regardless of where they are intercepted, have been subject to removal.
CHERRY-PICKING A BLEEDING HEART
In the present day, Sec. Mayorkas's warning to Caribbean migrants marked a stark departure from the administration's apparent stance on illegal immigration witnessed at the southwest land border. Unlike in the southwest, if migrants from Cuba or Haiti are caught attempting to enter the United States illegally by sea, they will be repatriated. Even if these migrants can establish a credible fear of persecution and qualify for asylum, according to Sec. Mayorkas, they will be redirected to a safe third country for resettlement.
It is important to remember that safe third country agreements, like those with El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and in effect, the Migrant Protection Protocols created by President Trump while dealing with the 2019 border surge, were called “illegal and patently immoral” by Democratic leadership like Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Democratic Reps. Bennie Thompson (Miss.), Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, and Nanette Diaz Barragan (Calif.) echoed the same message in a joint statement - calling such programs “abhorrent” and “a stain on our nation’s history.”
Unless this discrepancy between land and sea migration can be boiled down to a severe case of cognitive dissonance within the White House, a few hypotheses explain the administration's simultaneously lax stance on land migration and unwavering stance on maritime migration.
In the first possible explanation, the White House truly believes that maritime migration is too dangerous to encourage. The second, and by far most cynical, revolves around the future voting implications surrounding a surge in Caribbean migration. Finally, the third possible explanation explores the political effect a 'second front' of the border crisis could have on the Biden Administration.
"JUST TOO DANGEROUS"
The first argument, taking the administration's comments at face value, is that maritime migration is too dangerous. ‘While the U.S. does have a humanitarian obligation to resettle the world's "huddled masses," encouraging such trips by sea is just too risky!’ Additionally, mainstream news sources, like The Washington Post, include the fear of Coronavirus and its variants' impact on public health as a reason to warn against such migration at this time.
This argument is supported on the surface level by the recent Breitbart News exclusive reporting a source within ICE who says the agency will soon be directed to release all single adult Venezuelans, Haitians, and Cubans in custody to aid in overcrowding challenges faced at the border. The source reports that the rule will apply to all those who are presently detained and "all future single adult Venezuelans, Haitians, and Cubans apprehended at the southwest border."
How releasing single alien adults from certain countries "to aid in overcrowding" won't act as a magnet for more single alien adults from those countries - thus making overcrowding worse - I don't know? But under this farce of an explanation, the administration can maintain its "humanitarian" open border priorities while at the same time avoiding the political headache that comes with thousands of rafts washing up on the coast of Florida.
The hypothesis further falls apart when considering the immense peril faced by migrants attempting to cross the southwest land border illegally. Instead of encouraging potential refugees from Haiti and Cuba to brave the high seas in a chance for asylum, the administration has directly encouraged them to brave cartel extortion, coyote violence, and just as unforgiving deserts.
An illegal journey to the United States across the southwest is a truly cruel path of threats, extortion, drug running, kidnapping, ransom, rape, torture, death, and sometimes murder at the hands of transnational gangs and criminal organizations. These cartels are the only entities who stand to gain from additional waves of Caribbean migrants, much less any migrants, illegally crossing the southwest land border.
The Covid-19 aspect of the "too dangerous" explanation also holds no water given the recent news from the Washington Free Beacon that the Biden Administration plans to terminate Title 42 by the end of the month. Title 42 is an emergency regulation implementing a specific aspect of U.S. health law to prohibit the introduction of individuals when the CDC Director believes that "there is serious danger of the introduction of [a communicable] disease into the United States."
The second explanation, by far the most cynical, revolves solely around the petty nature of politics and the voting tendencies of would-be immigrants. This explanation, picked up most by conservative social media and talk radio, states that the Biden Administration is attempting to make the trip harder for Caribbean refugees, particularly Cubans, because they would be more likely to vote for Republicans after becoming citizens.
While it is impossible to determine how accurate this explanation is, and no one hopes it is very accurate, some easily highlightable correlations have cast a doubt in the eyes of many Americans. First, Cuban Americans are almost polar opposites to their Latino counterparts, with 58% of Cuban Americans aligning themselves with the Republican Party and 65% of Latino Americans aligning with the Democratic Party.
Cuban Americans were also credited with President Trump's 2020 win in the state of Florida, where the former President outperformed his results within the community from the 2016 election, when over half of the Florida-Cuban population voted for him, according to the Pew Research Center. 'Courting the Cuban vote' segments graced almost all major majors news networks during the 2020 election cycle, with stories focusing on the pre-pandemic economy, law and order, and above all else a fear among Cuban Americans of growing socialist sentiments within the Democratic party - the same ideas they risked their lives to escape once before.
American Radio and TV host Dana Loesch was quick to tweet in response to Secretary Mayorkas’s comments on Cuba and Haiti:
Representative Dan Bishop (R-N.C.) appears to have come to the same conclusion in a tweet:
Cross the southern border illegally & @SecMayorkas won’t forcefully object. But attempt to flee Communism in the face of a real threat to your life & suddenly illegal immigration becomes his top concern.— Rep. Dan Bishop (@RepDanBishop) July 14, 2021
There's no good policy explanation for this, but there is a political one. https://t.co/BdUsyS2ZVi
It is important to note, however, the remarkable political diversity within the Cuban American demographic, particularly in South Florida. Cubans who fled their homeland between the 1950s and 1960s are often considered “reliable Republican voters” in America, given that most witnessed, at least in some form, the atrocities of a socialist revolution. This is opposed to Cuban Americans born in the U.S., who lean predominantly Democratic and now outnumber exiles who came from Cuba before 1980.
Curiously, according to a 2020 poll published by Florida International University, Trump’s election-year boost among Cuban voters came from those who immigrated to the U.S. in the last three decades. The poll highlighted that of Cubans who arrived between 2010 and 2015, 76% said they are registered to vote as Republicans.
Unfortunately, it must now be reiterated: how potential immigrants may choose to vote once here, should be of zero concern in crafting U.S. immigration policy. U.S. Immigration policy should focus solely on benefiting the national interest, i.e. Americans' and already present immigrants' quality of life. Neither major American political party should create legislation or policy targeting certain groups of immigrants with the intent of garnering more votes for one's party - or fewer votes for another's.
COLLAPSING PUBLIC OPINION
Finally, the third explanation for Biden's immigration double standard centers around the optics of America's already raging border crisis. The White House understands the current public-opinion implications of millions of illegal aliens pouring across the southern border. Add hundreds of thousands of aliens illegally entering the U.S. by sea, and the White House's approval ratings would be beyond the help any new narrative could provide.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced last week that they had 188,829 illegal alien encounters at the southwest land border through June alone. These encounters represent a 5% increase in illegal alien encounters from May 2021; despite the yearly trend of migration dropping off through the sweltering summer months. They also mark the milestone of 1.1 million illegal alien encounters at the border, with three remaining months in this fiscal year.
The Washington Times adds, "In an Economist/YouGov poll taken in late June, just 16% [of registered voters] sided with Mr. Biden in rejecting the "crisis" label, including just 27% of self-identified Democrats. And of those who called the situation a crisis, a strong majority saw it as an immigration, security or crime crisis" rejecting the prevailing narrative of a "humanitarian crisis."
According to another late June poll published by Harvard CAPS-Harris, a majority of voters (55%) think President Donald Trump's border policies, such as Remain in Mexico, should have been left "in place." Additionally, two-thirds of voters said President Biden's executive actions have encouraged illegal immigration, and 80% of voters said illegal immigration is a serious issue for the country.
However, the most concerning statistic in the June Harvard-Harris polling on the border shows that Americans are drastically underestimating the full extent of the crisis. The vast majority of American voters estimated that 100,000 or fewer illegal aliens cross the border each month - when in reality for the past three months, the actual number of encounters has hovered around 180,000.
It would not be out of the realm of possibilities for the White House and DHS to leverage this public naivety to continue pursuing their open border policies, while at the same time fearing that a so-called 'second front' of the ongoing immigration crisis could raise enough public awareness to damper their ambitions to admit as many foreign nationals as possible in the U.S., regardless of existing law, public opinion, or the national interest.
The reported move by DHS to release all Venezuelan, Haitian, and Cuban migrants at the border, mentioned above, could give credence to this explanation - as the administration attempts to funnel Caribbean refugees through the southern border where they know a majority of American's are not paying attention, unlike the beaches of Florida during the summer season.
CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS
Whether the administration truly believes that maritime migration is just too dangerous to encourage, those handling immigration policy in White House are beginning to recognize an impending collapse in public approval, or some other nefarious political motivation is to blame for the apparent migration double standard exposed by Sec. Mayorkas this past week, the country may never know.
However, it is essential to note that attempting to pinpoint the cause of Biden's immigration discrepancy through just one of these possible explanations may be a foolish endeavor - as some mixture is probably at fault.
Mark Krikorian, Executive Director for the Centers for Immigration Studies, came to a similar conclusion in his recent post on the CIS website, stating there are two main takeaways from the administration's new "hawkishness."
First, it's clearly driven by fear of political disaster for the president's party … Biden's main weakness with public opinion is on immigration, because of the 'apocalyptic' situation on the border with Mexico — adding a seaborne border crisis would hand Congress to the Republicans on a silver platter next year.
The second thing to keep in mind is that the administration's stand is not really hawkish. Note that Mayorkas said 'if you take to the sea. [Referring to the news about Haitian and Cuban migrants being released at the border.]
Krikorian's conclusions point to the unfortunate likelihood of the White House's sudden "commitment" to upholding and enforcing U.S. immigration law on the high seas, being nothing more than another disingenuous attempt to bolster the appearance of process and order along America's chaotic, crisis-ridden borders.
Historically, these public-relations gambits have offered no real solutions to the migration crisis they often correlate with; even worse, these semblances of enforcement usually act as public opinion buffers preceding attempts by the White House or Congress to peddle unpopular amnesties for illegal aliens to the American public…
In unrelated news, Democrat leadership is expected to vote this week on what can and can't be included in the upcoming $3.5T Budget Reconciliation package, a bill that would require a total of zero Republican votes to become law. Many within the Democratic leadership are attempting to seize the opportunity to enact a massive amnesty, conservatively rumored to cover approximately 6-7 million illegal aliens currently in the country.
In the unbridled dreams of the package's creators, DACA 'Dreamers' (~1.8 million), aliens protected by TPS (~300 thousand), alien farm workers (1-2 million), and any alien defined by Congressional Democrats as an 'essential worker' (5-6 million?) would all be covered by the budget amnesty.
But, just one Democratic Senator needs to break partisan rank to prevent such a disastrous provision from being included in the budget reconciliation process. Please, call your senators today and respectfully urge them to vote against allowing amnesty into the budget reconciliation process!
Senate Switchboard Phone Number: (202) 224-3121
CHRIS PIERCE is a Content Writer for NumbersUSA
Updated: Fri, Jul 23rd 2021 @ 11:53am EDT