Dozens of Cuban doctors encouraged to defect to the United States now face delays in obtaining green cards and citizenship because they joined the Communist Party or affiliated organizations in Cuba when they were young, according to South Florida immigration lawyers and immigrant rights activists.
The delays are an unexpected problem for some of the doctors who had hoped to be received with open arms under a program launched by the Bush administration in 2006 as a way to undermine Cuba’s “doctor diplomacy,” a popular program under which thousands of doctors are deployed to foreign countries. One of the largest contingents is in Venezuela, one of Cuba’s closest allies.
A statement from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) did not address the issue of delays, but said that every application for immigration benefits is weighed and decided on its merits.
“USCIS adjudicates all petitions and applications for immigration benefits individually based on the evidence provided and immigration law, while ensuring that we do not sacrifice national security, efficiency or quality,’’ the USCIS statement said.
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Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Cuban-American Miami Republican who is chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, promised to look into the matter.
“I will contact the immigration authorities to learn more about this citizenship problem, because what I have is anecdotal evidence from families impacted by this barrier,’’ said Ros-Lehtinen in an e-mail to El Nuevo Herald. “These Cuban doctors are freedom-seekers who don’t want to lie but wish to take advantage of this great asylum program especially designed for them. The Cuban tyranny shamelessly uses Cuban doctors as its international medical propaganda, and the U.S. should help these asylum seekers who are tired of the regime’s lies.”
Disclosure of the immigration hurdles is only the latest problem faced by defecting Cuban doctors. Recently many of them complained they were having difficulties revalidating medical credentials in the United States, because Cuba refuses to release their certification documents.
Immigrant rights activists and lawyers who are helping Cuban doctors said delays in obtaining green cards and citizenship add to the bureaucratic obstacles the medical defectors encounter once they arrive in the United States.
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