In response to Fidel Castro’s poor health and his handover of power to his brother Raul, the Department of Homeland Security has begun preparing for the immigration-related issues that a political transition in Cuba could bring, according to a story in the AP today:
Bolstered by Fidel Castro’s surprise handoff of power, the Bush administration is preparing to ease some immigration rules for Cubans who want to live in the United States, focusing largely on reuniting families now separated by politics and the sea.
The draft plans, still under debate, seek to discourage a mass migration from Cuba over choppy waters – a journey that violates current immigration law and risks lives. But administration officials said they also hope the relaxed rules will prompt Cubans to push the Castro regime for official permission to head to the United States.
While stressing that any policy shift was not yet final, administration officials said the changes could be announced as early as this week.
“Taken together, they promote safe, legal and orderly migration, while they also support the Cuban people in their aspirations for a free and prosperous society,” says a draft copy of Homeland Security Department talking points obtained Monday by The Associated Press.
The article goes on to provide detailed information on the talking points, describing a list of potential U.S. actions in response to different scenarios. One issue that the story doesn’t discuss is how this issue could impact upon the larger national debate on immigration and border security today. If actions taken to deal with Cuban immigrants diverge from general immigration policy, that could lead to a backlash from people on both sides of the current immigration debate. The administration is surely gauging these factors as it considers its plans to deal with a transition in Cuba.