Florida Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart attacked the “double standard and hypocrisy” of opponents of President Donald Trump’s executive order on migrants from terror-prone countries, noting that many did not oppose a similar move by President Barack Obama that stranded thousands of Cubans throughout the Western Hemisphere.
In a Monday post on Facebook, Rep. Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) issued a statement clarifying the conditions of President Trump’s executive order implementing a hold on allowing migrants from seven terror-prone countries to enter the United States. Noting that the “ban” – which has not stopped many from the seven nations who have cleared extra screening from entering the country – was “only temporary until the Trump administration can review and enact the necessary procedures to vet immigrants from these countries,” he added that he was disturbed by the lack of concern for Cuban refugees who suffered similar delays thanks to an Obama administration policy.
“I am struck by the double standard and hypocrisy of those who are offended by this executive order, but who failed to challenge President Obama when he took similar action against Cuban refugees,” Rep. Diaz-Balart wrote, noting, “especially since President Obama’s action was meant to appease the Castro regime and not for national security reasons.”
Rep. Diaz-Balart concludes by clarifying that the seven nations mentioned in President Trump’s executive order – Iran, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, and Libya – were part of a list compiled during the Obama years, and not the product of Trump-era policy.
The Trump administration chose the nations singled out in the Terrorist Prevention Act of 2015, adding an extra section on Syria given the rapid deterioration of that nation’s control of land in the face of a years-long Islamic State onslaught and civil war between the forces of dictator Bashar al-Assad and largely Sunni Muslim rebel groups.
As Rep. Diaz-Balart notes, the Obama administration policy toward Cuba did not have a national security rationale. In his last week in office, President Obama repealed a longstanding executive order policy known as “Wet Foot/Dry Foot,” which allowed Cubans who reach U.S. territory to remain here legally. The intent of the executive order was to protect Cuban refugees fleeing the political and economic oppression of the Communist Party that has ruled the island nation for over half a century.
The execution of the “Wet Foot/Dry Foot” repeal occurred hastily, and confused Custom and Border Patrol (CBP) officers into detaining Cubans with legal visas to enter the United States for hours. Among these were many elderly Cubans who had procured legal tourist visas from the U.S. embassy in Havana in order to visit their relatives at home. Elderly Cubans with health problems later told media in Miami that they had been detained and interrogated for hours, often without food, for suspicious behavior like mentioning the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act.
In addition to those stranded at airports with legal visas thanks to Obama’s last-minute policy, thousands of Cubans attempting to reach the United States through Central America and Mexico now have no way to escape the dire conditions in detention centers in nations like Panama. This week, 18 Cuban refugees announced a hunger strike to be allowed to either move north or settle in Panama, neither of which they have been allowed to do. The Mexican government has also ramped up operations to deport Cuban refugees while publicly condemning the Trump administration for considering deportations of Mexicans illegal present in the United States.
Rep. Diaz-Balart appears to be alone among Cuban-American members of the House of Representatives in highlighting the relative lack of support for Cuban refugees from the left compared to the outpouring of rage by small leftist groups in American airports this weekend. Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.), for example, issued a “wait-and-see” statement, expressing hope that the Trump administration will modify its policies once a more streamlined mechanism for vetting refugees is put in place:
— Patricia Mazzei (@PatriciaMazzei) January 28, 2017
Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Albio Sires (D-N.J.), meanwhile, have vocally opposed parts of the executive order. “I object to the suspension of visas from the seven named countries and of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program because we could have accomplished our objective of keeping our homeland safe by immediate implementation of more thorough screening procedures,” the Congresswoman wrote in a statement on her website. Rep. Ros-Lehtinen did add a statement similar to Rep. Curbelo’s, noting that the executive order is meant to be temporary.
Rep. Sires has taken his objections further, supporting a bill to undo the executive order entirely.
I signed onto @RepZoeLofgren SOLVE Act to rescind Pres. Trump’s executive order banning refugees & immigrants from certain Muslim countries
— Albio Sires (@RepSires) January 30, 2017
The fifth Cuban-American in the House of Representatives, West Virginia Republican Congressman Alex Mooney, has at press time not issued any statements regarding either the repeal of “Wet Foot/Dry Foot” or the Trump executive order.