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    Congress considers bills to restrict welfare for Cuban immigrants

    The proposed legislation would make most Cuban immigrants ineligible for
    refugee money, medical benefits and other assistance.
    BY MEGAN O’MATZ
    Sun Sentinel

    FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA.
    A bill to restrict welfare for Cuban immigrants would save the U.S.
    government $2.45 billion over the next decade, congressional analysts
    estimate.

    The proposed legislation, introduced by U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo and
    Sen. Marco Rubio, both Florida Republicans, would make most Cuban
    immigrants ineligible for refugee money, medical benefits and other
    assistance unless they prove they are political refugees persecuted by
    the Castro government.

    The Congressional Budget Office, which provides nonpartisan budget and
    economic data for policymakers, studied the proposal and calculated the
    potential savings.

    The bill is expected to cut spending by $50 million in the first year,
    and $2.4 billion more through 2026, Curbelo’s office said.

    “With all the talk about paying for Zika virus funding, maybe this is
    one of the ways we can pay for some of that. But let’s get it done,”
    Rubio, who is shepherding an identical bill in the Senate, told his
    colleagues last week.

    The legislative proposal followed a Sun Sentinel investigation showing
    Cubans taking advantage of U.S. welfare then returning to the
    Communist-led island to visit multiple times or even to live – while
    still collecting U.S. aid.

    “What we’ve seen people (do to) abuse the system over and over again is
    they figure out a relative in the U.S. that goes to the bank every
    month, takes a cut and sends the rest to them,” Rubio said on the Senate
    floor.

    “That’s your money that’s being sent. The American people are generous
    people, but right now those who abuse the system are taking American
    taxpayers for fools and we need to stop this.”

    Large numbers of Cubans are fleeing to the U.S. since the Obama
    administration renewed diplomatic relations in late 2014. Those who
    reach land can stay, even if they arrive illegally.

    Most say they are coming to find better work opportunities in the U.S.,
    and because they fear the U.S. will eventually end their special status
    and unique advantages as newcomers.

    After a year and a day they can become permanent U.S. legal residents.
    Many then go back and forth between the U.S. and Cuba to visit and bring
    money or goods to family and friends.

    These return trips have raised questions about why Cubans are treated as
    political refugees – entitled to generous U.S. aid – when they quickly
    return to the island that oppressed them.

    Immigrants from most other nations are barred from collecting aid in the
    U.S. for their first five years. Those here illegally are not eligible
    at all.

    Curbelo, the son of Cuban exiles, titled his bill the “Cuban Immigrant
    Work Opportunity Act,” saying: “Cubans coming to the United States will
    have the same opportunity as immigrants from other nations, like
    Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Central America – from any country–to work
    and earn an honest living while contributing to our great nation.”

    The legislation would not apply to those already living in the United
    States.

    Despite the enormous potential savings cited by the Congressional Budget
    Office, the figure is low when compared with the full cost of aid to
    Cubans calculated by the Sun Sentinel.

    In its investigation, the newspaper estimated that welfare to Cuban
    immigrants–federal refugee assistance, food stamps and aid to seniors
    and the disabled–cost more than $680 million a year.

    About 42 percent of that is Supplemental Security Income – cash for
    impoverished seniors. The Sun Sentinel found large numbers of elderly
    Cubans immigrating here and immediately getting such aid even though
    they never held jobs here.

    Source: Congress considers bills to restrict welfare for Cuban
    immigrants | In Cuba Today –
    www.incubatoday.com/news/article80851537.html

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