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Rubio Introduces Legislation To End Rampant Abuse Of Cuban Refugee Resettlement Benefits
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) today introduced “The Cuban Immigrant Work Opportunity Act of 2016” in the Senate, companion legislation to H.R. 4247, sponsored by Congressman Carlos Curbelo (R-FL-26), that would terminate the automatic eligibility for federal public assistance for Cuban nationals under the Refugee Resettlement Program, while maintaining it for those that have been persecuted that are in need of resettlement assistance. This bill addresses the well-documented abuses of federal benefits and safeguard American taxpayer funds.
“It is outrageous whenever the American people’s generosity is exploited,” said Rubio. “It is particularly outrageous when individuals who claim to be fleeing repression in Cuba are welcomed and allowed to collect federal assistance based on their plight, only to return often to the very place they claimed to be fleeing. The weaknesses in our current law not only allow the flow of American tax dollars into the Castro regime’s coffers, it also undermines the legitimate cause of those Cubans who are truly fleeing repression and political persecution. This is a first step to eliminate the loopholes and financial incentives that have been exploited for too long, while protecting U.S. taxpayers and preserving the original intent of the Cuban Adjustment Act and Refugee Resettlement Program, which is to afford refuge to Cubans truly fleeing persecution.
“The need to help those fleeing repression in Cuba has not changed given that, since the Obama Administration announced its counterproductive policy of normalization with Castro’s dictatorship, political arrests and repression have increased,” Rubio continued. “‘The Cuban Immigrant Work Opportunity Act’ will ensure that we continue assisting those fleeing political persecution in Cuba while working toward ending any abuse of American generosity. This is a strong first step, and I hope Congress will pass it this year.”
“I commend Senator Rubio for his courageous leadership on this issue,” said Curbelo. “The mass exodus of Cubans and widespread abuse of our refugee assistance programs are direct consequences of President Obama’s reckless Cuba policy. This legislation will ensure that only persecuted Cubans can receive refugee benefits, which are designated for those who cannot return to their countries, and will protect American taxpayers. America’s generosity should be honored and appreciated – never exploited or abused.”
A provision in the Refugee Education Assistance Act of 1980 allows Cuban immigrants, regardless of their reasons for leaving the island, access to the federal Refugee Resettlement Program. Unfortunately, recent reports indicate that this program has been grossly abused:
- The South Florida Sun-Sentinel determined benefits to Cubans cost U.S. taxpayers more than $680 million a year, and found multiple examples of people living in Cuba and still collecting welfare, despite regulations prohibiting welfare recipients from collecting or using U.S. benefits in another country.
- According to a South Florida Sun-Sentinel investigation, Cuba natives, operating primarily in South Florida, account for less than one percent of the U.S. population, but 41 percent of arrests nationwide for health care fraud.
- The South Florida Sun-Sentinel also estimated the fraud and theft of Cubans breaking these regulations have cost American taxpayers and businesses more than $2 billion over two decades.
Rubio’s and Curbelo’s “Cuban Immigrant Work Opportunity Act of 2016” would ensure that only refugees and asylees remain eligible for the Refugee Resettlement Program. Furthermore, it holds the Obama Administration accountable to enforce its own regulations to ensure benefits are not being collected from ineligible individuals living abroad.
A PDF of the legislation is available here.