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Normalizing Diplomatic Relations with Cuba could mean Deportation for Thousands

Last week, President Obama announced that he would begin the process to normalize relations with Cuba:

“President Obama on Wednesday ordered the restoration of full diplomatic relations with Cuba and the opening of an embassy in Havana for the first time in more than a half-century as he vowed to “cut loose the shackles of the past” and sweep aside one of the last vestiges of the Cold War.” – New York Times.

Included in “normalizing” relations with Cuba will be restoring the diplomatic channels that have official been down for over 50 years. Restoring diplomatic relations means that Cuba will eventually begin issuing travel documents to, and accepting Cuban nationals who are deported from the United States.

Right now, but for a limited number of specific Cuban nationals on the “repat list,” Cubans who are ordered deported from the United States are not actually deported to Havana. Estimates have the number of Cubans with final orders of removal in the tens of thousands. Right now, the vast majority Cubans who have been convicted of serious crimes like murder and drug trafficking are not removed from the United State to Cuba. Rather, they are monitored on Orders of Supervision by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

When diplomatic relations are restored and deportations begin, the U.S. Government will likely begin locating, detaining and removing Cuban Nationals with orders of removal from the United States. This does not mean that every Cuban with an order of removal will be detained and deported. ICE will likely use their new Priority Enforcement Program and new enforcement priorities to determine which Cubans with final orders will be removed to Cuba. This means that Cuban nationals with final orders of removal who are terrorists, national security threats, and convicted criminals will be first in line for detention and removal.

Many Cuban nationals in immigration court, especially those detained by ICE, have accepted orders of removal, even if they qualified for forms of immigration relief, just to get out of detention or get the proceedings over with. Many Cuban nationals with criminal convictions were eligible for cancellation of removal, asylum, adjustment of status, or other forms of relief. However, they waived their rights to apply for relief from removal and accepted deportation orders. When ICE begins deporting Cuban nationals again, it will be very difficult to reopen removal proceedings to apply for relief from removal. Cuban nationals with orders of removal should begin looking into applying for forms of immigration relief for which they are eligible before the U.S. actually begins deporting Cubans. By then, it may be too late.

The experienced immigration attorneys at Shorstein, Lasnetski & Gihon can provide a free comprehensive immigration consultation for you if you are in removal proceedings or have an order of removal. Call us today!