The combination of President Obama’s decision last year to “normalize” relations with Cuba and a federal law enacted at the height of anti-Castro sentiment in the U.S. has resulted in a surge of border-crossings into Arizona, California and Texas that threatens to fuel tensions among other immigrants and overwhelm aid agencies.

More than 40,000 Cubans entered the southern U.S. border between October 1, 2014 and September 30, 2015 according to the Pew Research Center, more than double the number from the previous year.

The Laredo Sector in Texas saw an increase of 66% of Cuban entries from the previous year.

The high numbers of Cubans entering at the Southern border and the preferential status afforded them is creating a tense atmosphere in a region where immigrants from Mexico and Central America are detained and served with orders to appear in immigration court while Cubans are granted automatic entry with federal benefits and a clear pathway to eventual citizenship.

The Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966, which grants Cubans automatic permission to enter the U.S., was enacted to assist Cubans risking their lives to escape the communist Castro regime that had taken control of the island in 1959.

Separate policies from the 1980s make Cubans immediately eligible for federal welfare benefits and financial assistance for nine months, with the right to apply for permanent residency, a so-called “green card” one year after arrival.

“The people here are starting to feel resentment,” said U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo. “They are asking, is it fair that the Cubans get to stay and the Central Americans are being deported?”

Newly arrived Cubans worry that the tensions might force Congress to repeal the 1966 law and revise the federal policies that provide them with special status.

Rep. [score]Paul Gosar[/score] (R-Ariz.) has proposed repealing the Cuban Adjustment Act, saying, “If President Obama has normalized relations with Cuba, why would we treat illegal immigrants from that nation any different from those from other countries?” but Cuban-American Senator [score]Marco Rubio[/score], (R-FL) a candidate for his party’s nomination for the presidency, has gone on the record saying the law can be updated to accommodate the current situation caused by the thaw in relations between the U.S. and Cuba.


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