Alarcón: Immigration reform not yet set

There is still ‘no date’ for approval of immigration reform

From Europa Press

MADRID – The president of Cuba’s Parliament, Ricardo Alarcón, has revealed that there is still “no date” for the approval of an immigration reform that not only could end the restrictions imposed on Cubans to leave the island but also ease the conditions that weigh on those who wish to return permanently to their homeland.

The lifting of restrictions “is a task that takes time for two reasons,” Alarcón told Europa Press in Madrid. “First, because we want to do all that with the broadest possible consensus and to do that we must take into account several factors. But besides, we need to consider the regulations that already exist.”

The Cuban National Assembly (a single-chamber Parliament), which meets twice a year, will hold its first regular session of 2012 on July 23, with an agenda that has not yet been made public. This has spurred rumors about the possibility that the deputies will finally debate the long-hoped-for immigration reform.

When asked about the stages set by the National Assembly to give the green light to a new law, Alarcón made it clear that there is still “no date” because this is a complex issue that implies “reviewing all the [existing] regulations […] to avoid clashes” between the laws.

Last August, Cuban President Raúl Castro revealed that the Government was working “to reduce prohibitions and regulations” on travel abroad that have “unnecessarily” survived. He mentioned the subject again in December but cautioned that the suspension of restrictions would be carried out gradually. So far, no details of the project have been made public.

The objective is to transform the current migratory model “to make it as flexible as possible,” Alarcón said. “Some migratory regulations will be modified in the direction described by Raúl. That is one of the many other things in which we are engaged,” he explained.

For the past half a century, Cubans who wish to leave the island for whatever reason must ask for an exit permit – popularly known as “the white card” – whose approval is left to the discretion of immigration authorities. The process can last weeks and costs about 150 convertible pesos (CUC), or about 120 euros.

Return to Cuba

So far, there has been talk only about the changes in the restrictions on departure from the island, but immigration reform could also ease the measures that allow Cubans abroad to return to their homeland permanently.

“Those who have returned are not few, and those who would like to return and resettle in Cuba are not few either. I can assure you that there are many, many Cubans who have returned and remained here, and many Cubans would like to return,” said Alarcón, who has been president of the Cuban National Assembly for the past 19 years.

According to Alarcón, there is “a campaign that Cubans want to leave Cuba, that the only ones who flee are the Cubans, and very little is said about the reverse movement.”

For that reason, the Castro government has made “a political decision to liberalize and make flexible” the migration rules “in both directions” to give space to the returnees. “We are not as insistent, but the United States has many economic problems,” said the legislator, alluding to the millions of Cubans who live on U.S. soil.

But the fact that “many” Cubans want to return “presents another set of problems because Cuba is a country with limited resources,” said Alarcón. “They want to return, but where to? To their former homes? Maybe their families can’t accommodate them, and that’s what we’re analyzing.”

One of the steps the authorities have taken deals with reforms that allow Cubans who emigrate to keep their homes and even lease them during their absence, something that thousands of Cubans who left the island in 1959, after the triumph of the Revolution, could not do.


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