Early this year in June, 2011, I attended an immigration summit in Washington D.C., sponsored by the American Jewish Committee, called "Immigration Works and Conservatives for Immigration Reform." One of the reasons I wanted to attend was to try to strengthen Latino and Jewish relationships. Together, immigration advocates made several Senate and Congressional visits.
About a dozen of us visited Senator Marco Rubio's office where we met with one of his staffers. Senator Rubio's aide told a group of Florida constituents who had just attended the immigration conference that the Senator was against the DREAM Act because it was a form of "amnesty." The aide stressed to the group that Senator Rubio's family came to the United States via legal mechanisms, and the Senator believed that others should follow the law.
Is that so?
Recent articles have pointed out that Senator Rubio's parents first entered the United States in 1956, prior to the Cuban Revolution of 1959. His mother returned to Cuba in 1961, only a couple of weeks before the Bay of Pigs invasion --and she decided to return to the USA in exile. Given Senator Rubio's intransigent position on immigration reform, his own family's immigration history should be examined under a microscope.
What was the legal status of his parents and older siblings who were born in Cuba, in the United States between 1956 and 1966? Were they visa overstays? If not, what was their legal status, and where is the proof of such legal status? It is important to note that less than half of our country's present undocumented population of about 10 million entered the country via the United States' border with Mexico - the rest entered with a visa and overstayed. Visa overstays are as undocumented as those that cross the border.
Senator Rubio's parents had a daughter born in the United States between the period of 1956 and 1966, a time period where their legal status is unclear. Senator Rubio's sister would not be allowed to be a United States citizen pursuant to legislation that some in his Tea Party are introducing - which would change the 14th Amendment to not grant citizenship to children born in the United States to one or two undocumented parents.
The generous "Cuban Adjustment Act" of November 2, 1966, seems to have given Senator Rubio's family a shot at the American dream. It seems that Senator Rubio's parents after 10 years of a questionable immigration status - or as visa overstays - were able to become legal, with what many call, "the Cuban Amnesty." To this day, any Cuban that is inspected or paroled into the United States can become a Legal Permanent Resident a year after they first enter. This law also grants this status to a Cuban national that crosses the United States' Mexican border illegally. Senator Rubio's brother, Mario, became a United States citizen in 1971. Legal Permanent Residents can apply to become naturalized United States citizens five years after they are allowed to become Legal Permanent Residents. It is interesting to note that Senator Rubio's brother became a naturalized United States citizen in 1971, five years after the Cuban Adjustment Act.
Carlos Roa, one of the four courageous "Dream Walkers" who on January 1, 2011, walked 1,500 miles from Miami, Florida to Washington, D.C. to raise awareness of the Dream Act, has parallels to Senator Rubio's immigration story. Carlos was brought to the United States from Venezuela by his parents with a visa when he was two years of age. His parents perhaps decided to remain in the United States, in "exile" as a result of President Chavez' close links to Castro's Cuba and the changed political landscape in Venezuela. Unlike Senator Rubio's brother, Mario, Congress has not enacted the "Venezuelan Adjustment Act." There are about 2 million children brought to this country by their parents, many escaping repressive governments, others escaping abject poverty, while their parents fill our nation's labor needs in many industries. The rule of law is important, and we must strive to fix our broken immigration system to promote legal migration and give us an immigration system that makes us globally competitive for the 21st century.
We hope that Senator Rubio joins Republican Representative Ileana Ros Lehiten to work across the aisle with Senator Bob Menendez and give our nation sensible immigration reform that is needed to help our economy as well. Our current enforcement approach to a broken system is fiscally irresponsible. If Senator Rubio fails to work for the good of our nation and give back to others what this nation did for his family, we will continue to demand from his parents and siblings born in Cuba from 1956 to 1966, their "papers, please."
It was unfortunate for me to learn about Rubio defending Arizona's "papers, please" law, but now birthers and nativists are asking his family to show their papers. What it amounts to is that at the end of the day Rubio is just like the rest of us.
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