It is not humanitarianism driving Obama’s sudden reversal on Cuba. It is a cynical political move designed to add millions of voters to the Democrat base.
Normalizing relations between the two countries will not be limited to lifting diplomatic relations and easing travel and commerce restrictions. It will drive a new influx of Cuban immigrants to America under the Cuban Family Reunification program.
On December 5, days before Obama and Raúl Castro made simultaneous announcements calling for a thaw in relations, the United States Interests Section in Havana, Cuba, dusted off its immigrant visas program web page.
Immigration from Cuba, for now, requires that “a foreign citizen must be sponsored by a U.S. citizen relative(s), U.S. lawful permanent resident, or by a prospective employer, and be the beneficiary of an approved petition.”
In 2013, Cuba reformed its immigration process and allowed citizens to leave the country for the first time since the Castro government took control five decades ago.
A study released earlier this year by the Center for Immigration Studies revealed that “the enormous flow of legal immigrants in to the country — 29.5 million 1980 to 2012 — has remade and continues to remake the nation’s electorate in favor of the Democratic Party.”
Immigrants, particularly Hispanics and Asians, have policy preferences when it comes to the size and scope of government that are more closely aligned with progressives than with conservatives. As a result, survey data show a two-to-one party identification with Democrats over Republicans.
Because the vast majority of immigrants, both legal and illegal, add to the low-income population in the United States, “immigration likely makes all voters more supportive of redistributive policies championed by Democrats to support disadvantaged populations,” writes James G. Gimpel.
It should be noted that the discussion between Obama and Castro was brokered by Pope Francis, the first Latin-American pontiff.
In November, Francis released a papal statement attacking free market capitalism and calling for large scale wealth redistribution.
“Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality,” the Pope wrote in the Catholic Church’s apostolic Evangelii Gaudium.
The normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States and the prospect of a wave of new impoverished immigrants arriving in America is not a foregone conclusion, however.
Soon after the announcement, Republicans voiced opposition.
“Relations with the Castro regime should not be revisited, let alone normalized, until the Cuban people enjoy freedom – and not one second sooner. There is no ‘new course’ here, only another in a long line of mindless concessions to a dictatorship that brutalizes its people and schemes with our enemies,” declared House leader, Republican John Boehner.
Cuban-American Republican Sen. Marco Rubio framed his opposition along national security lines. “Appeasing the Castro brothers will only cause other tyrants from Caracas to Tehran to Pyongyang to see that they can take advantage of President Obama’s naiveté during his final two years in office,” he said. “As a result, America will be less safe as a result of the President’s change in policy.”
“The embargo that has been imposed for decades is now codified in legislation. As these changes unfold, I look forward to engaging Congress in an honest and serious debate about lifting the embargo,” Obama said.
The president’s call for removing the Cuban embargo and restoring diplomatic and commercial relations, however, will likely be thwarted by the new Republican dominated Congress next year.