Investigation: Cuban Refugees Abusing, Funneling U.S. Welfare to Cuba

Many Cuban refugees are abusing the American welfare system, with some even living off the generosity of the U.S. taxpayer in their native Cuba, according to an investigation by the Florida Sun Sentinel.

According to the Sentinel, Cuban refugees to the U.S. have largely been presumed to be fleeing persecution and, like all refugees, have thus been granted immediate access to public assistance. Instead of using those benefits as intended — in order to help them get a foothold in the U.S. — many have using American welfare dollars to finance their lives in Cuba, despite explicit prohibitions on using U.S. welfare abroad, the report finds.

Since 2003 more than 329,000 Cubans, eligible for the entire menu of welfare programs in the U.S., have arrived in Florida. The Sentinel’s report reveals Cubans represent 9 out of 10 foreign-born people receiving refugee services in the Sunshine State.

Florida residents, immigrants and officials had similar stories of rampant welfare abuse among Cuban refugees for the the Sentinel.

Miguel Veloso, a barber living Hialeah, Florida who has been in the U.S. for three years, described how recent Cuban refugees on welfare will spend months at a time in Cuba, returning before their welfare benefits expire.

State Rep. Manny Diaz Jr., who represents a large Cuban-American district, offered the same tale of Cuban refugees returning to Cuba and spending their welfare dollars there.

The assistance, he told the paper, “is definitely not to be used … to go have a great old time back in the country that was supposed to be oppressing you.”

So commonplace is the practice that some Cuban refugees have, according to the report, complained to their Congressman when they have trouble accessing their benefits abroad.

“A family member would come into our office and say another family member isn’t receiving his benefits,” Javier Correoso, an aide to former Rep. David Rivera  (R-FL), told the Sentinel. “We’d say, ‘Where is he?’ They’d say, ‘He’s in Cuba and isn’t coming back for six months.’”

Miami immigration attorney Grisel Ybarra recalled how a woman described how her grandmother than two great-aunts came to Florida, were approved for assistance, opened bank accounts and returned to Cuba. Each month the woman would cash their $2,400 combined monthly welfare checks, keep half and send the rest to her relatives in Cuba. The three never returned. Instead they were able to use the money to purchase a home in the island nation.

There is a cost to all the assistance granted to refugees and it falls heavily on the shoulders of the American taxpayer. In Florida, where the majority of refugees are Cubans, it adds up to a hefty sum. According to the Sun Sentinel, Cuban refugees cost taxpayers $682 million annually in federal assistance alone.

And the costs are on the rise. As the report indicates, in Florida, the cost of welfare, food stamps, and refugee cash assistance has increase 23 percent since 2011.

While some Cuban immigrants expressed disapproval for the practice, the draw of free stuff is palpable.

The Sentinel described how it found new Cuban refugees to the U.S. at welfare offices in Hialeah who had been informed of the aid back in Cuba.

Back in the ’60s, when you came in, they told you the factory that was hiring,” Nidia Diaz, a former bail bondswoman who was born Cuba and now lived in Miami, told the paper. “Now, they tell you the closest Department of Children and Families [office] so you can go and apply.”


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