A Simple Way for Biden to Begin to Mend Fences with Cuban-Americans—and Right an Injustice at the Same Time
At this point, it is clear that Joe Biden will almost certainly be the next president of the United States. While I have many reservations about both him and the Democratic Party more generally, on balance I certainly prefer his victory to a second term for Trump. But it is also clear that Biden’s victory was a much closer call than expected. One of the biggest reasons for that was his defeat in the key swing state of Florida, which—analysts believe—was in large part caused by his underperformance with Cuban-American voters, many of whom were spooked by the perception that Democrats are “socialists” and sympathetic to Fidel Castro’s dictatorship, which those Cubans (or, in many cases, their parents or grandparents) fled.
Political predictions are always chancy. But I think it’s fairly safe to assume that Florida—with its 29 electoral votes—will continue to be an important swing state in presidential and congressional elections for some time to come. And Cuban-Americans will continue to be an important constituency in that state. Thus, it is in the Democrats’ interest to try to heal the breach with the Cuban-American community.
And there is a way that soon-to-be President Biden can begin to do so, while simultaneously undoing a grave injustice—and without sacrificing any principles important to liberals. He can do so by undoing President Obama’s cruel January 2017 policy reversal on Cuban refugees. I described the issue in a 2017 post written soon after this decision, which was one of the last Obama implemented before leaving office:
There is absolutely no justification for Obama’s new policy. It is gratuitously cruel towards Cuban refugees, without creating any meaningful benefits. Despite some modest economic reforms, Cuba remains a repressive communist dictatorship whose people suffer massive oppression and poverty brought on by over fifty years of totalitarianism. Indeed, repression of dissent has actually increased since President Obama began to normalize relations with Cuba in December 2014.
If anything, the United States would have done better to end the “wetfoot” portion of the policy and stop turning back Cuban refugees who have the misfortune to be caught at sea. Where a refugee happens to be found by US authorities is a morally arbitrary characteristic that in no way changes their status as victims of brutal tyranny.
The main victims of Obama’s new policy will be Cubans denied the chance to