GOP Sen.: Obama Missed Chance To Oust Cuban Criminals

Franklin Reyes/AP
Franklin Reyes/AP

With an estimated 34,000 Cubans at large in the U.S. despite facing final orders of removal, Senate Judiciary Committee Chuck Grassley (R-IA) is charging that the Obama administration failed to use its recent normalization negotiations to require Cuba to take back its citizens.

Cuba has consistently refused efforts to accept back its nationals who have been ordered deported from the U.S. According to Grassley, Cuba’s refusals have allowed some tens of thousands of Cubans with deportation orders to remain in the U.S., many with criminal records.

Grassley argues that the Obama administration’s move to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba should have been a prime moment for the U.S. to get it to take back those Cubans the U.S. is seeking to deport.

“The negotiations between the United States and Cuba to re-establish diplomatic relations presented a singular opportunity to require, as a condition precedent to re-establishment of diplomatic recognition, immediate Cuban repatriation of all of their nationals with final removal orders, including the convicted criminals that Cuba has heretofore refused to take back,” Grassley wrote in a letter dated Thursday to DHS Sec. Jeh Johnson and Secretary of State John Kerry.

“I gather, however, that this did not happen,” Grassley added.

According to the Iowa Republican, Cuba’s failure to take back its own people has resulted in convicted criminal immigrants being released into the U.S. Some, he notes, have gone on to commit more crimes.

“As a result of this policy, it is my further understanding that there are over 34,000 Cuban nationals, of which many are apparently convicted criminals, with final orders of removal who have been freely walking the streets of the United States for years,” Grassley wrote.

He highlighted instances in which Cuba’s failure to accept its people resulted in further criminal actions on American soil, naming Cuban nationals Luis-Leyva Vargas and Felix Rodriguez.

Officials unsuccessfully attempted to deport Vargas after he was released from prison for unlawful sex with a teen in 2008 — he went on to kidnap and rape an 18-year-old Virginia woman two years later. Rodriguez was convicted of raping young children in the 1990s and — when Cuba would not take him back — was released from prison in 2009. Less than a year later he shot and killed his girlfriend.

In his letter, Grassley presses the administration for answers on what it is doing to secure cooperation from Cuba to take back its nationals as well as information on the population of Cuban nationals facing deportation currently in the U.S.