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Cuba Denounces U.S. Migration Law

August 21, 2000

COLON, Cuba (AP) _ Daisy Bueno watched her only two sons walk out of their simple wooden home two weeks ago, lured by what she calls a ``cruel″ promise of residency in the United States.

She choked back tears explaining why she never saw them again: their shark-torn bodies appeared a day later in the Florida Straits.

The deaths of the two young men on Aug. 9 _ less than two months after Cuba won a standoff over the custody of 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez _ highlight the island nation’s next battle: U.S. immigration policy on Cubans.

A billboard in Havana shouts ``Down with the Cuban Adjustment Act,″ the U.S. law that guarantees refugee status to Cubans _ if they can make it across a shark-infested stretch of ocean to America.

The Cuban government newspaper, Granma, called it ``The Killer Law,″ in a Friday editorial.

Cubans who have been unable to obtain a U.S. visa to emigrate see the law as their only chance for economic advancement after living in a country where most jobs are low-paying government positions.

Castro complains that the law not only puts the lives of Cubans at risk, it serves as a means for his political enemies to characterize all people leaving Cuba as political refugees fleeing repression.

For Daisy Bueno, the mother of Alexei Rodriguez, 20 and Juan Carlos Rodriguez, 23, the law has been a tragedy for many Cuban families.

``I think it’s cruel,″ said Bueno, as she sat in her tiny, four-room house in this small town 100 miles east of Havana, her sons’ beds neatly made, their clothes still carefully hung in the closet.

``It’s very dangerous, and it has destroyed many families, especially mothers,″ Bueno said. Her sons’ boxer dog, Chester, gazed expectantly toward the door.

Asked about the U.S. policy, Niobel Gonzalez, Bueno’s only surviving child, said, ``I think what all Cubans think, that it’s unfair. The majority (of those who try the crossing) don’t get across the ocean.″

There are no moves in Congress to change the law, which Havana says violates U.S.-Cuba migration accords.

``Republicans believe the United States should adhere to the principle established by the 1966 Cuban adjustment act,″ the party said in a platform document approved at its convention earlier this month. That document says Castro’s government _ not U.S. policy _ ``forces Cubans into the sea in a desperate bid for freedom.″

Democrats, meanwhile, have committed the party ``to continue to press for human rights, the rule of law and political freedom″ in Cuba.

Bueno and Niobel say their family has received clothing and medicine from relatives who made the journey to Miami in the 1980s.

Bueno said it might have been their success that inspired Alexia and Juan Carlos to set off on their perilous journey without telling her. ``I would have told them not to do it,″ she said.

The government here sees the new battle against the Cuban Adjustment Act as a continuation of the fight over Elian, who was returned to Cuba June 28 after a seven-month custody battle.

Cubans have been asked to sign an oath that formalizes the government’s opposition to U.S. laws meant to isolate Cuba.

``The combat for the return of the kidnapped Cuban boy has become the first episode of a much more prolonged struggle,″ the oath reads, adding that the Elian case has ``unleashed a great battle ... to end the causes which have led to so cruel and sad an event.″

But in the Bueno household, the debate over the Cuban Adjustment Act has ended.

Asked if she would ever try to emigrate to the United States _ even legally _ she gives an emphatic ``no.″

``I’m staying here. I think that if they tried and didn’t make it, I don’t want to have anything to do with that place.″

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