In 1980, the US was going through yet another immigration crisis. Middle America’s feathers had been greatly ruffled by the arrival of the Vietnamese ‘boat people’ and then Castro had suddenly permitted a massive wave of migration from Cuba which included not only honest people seeking a better life, but also hundreds of violent criminals recently released from prison specifically for the migration wave.
And yet again, while the US government was absolutely prepared to bang the drum about human rights violations by the Castro regime, it was equally unprepared to process those immigrants, despite far fewer Cubans arriving in 1980 than Vietnamese in 1975-76. (There were 100,000 Vietnamese refugees in Camp Pendleton after the Fall of Saigon.)
Rothbard comments on the issue:
Thousands clamor to get out of Russia or Cuba or Vietnam, while no one rushes to apply for citizenship in these alleged examples of workers’ paradise.
Fair enough, and a good point as far as it goes. But curiously, the yearning masses seeking freedom from Communist countries get an all too chilly reception when they seek freedom and prosperity by entering the Land of the Free. If there is not exactly an iron curtain keeping these freedom-seekers out, there is at best grudging assent and at worst severe restrictions upon these would-be immigrants.“From Cuban to American Socialism”, Reason, December 1980
Unfortunately for those desperately trying to escape totalitarian socialist regimes–people not so different from Mises and Hayek fleeing the Nazis or Dr. Yuri Maltsev fleeing the Soviet Union–the situation has grown worse in the 39 years since Rothbard penned that editorial in Reason Magazine.
US policy has become more hostile towards Cuban immigrants, thanks to Barack Obama ending the wet foot/dry foot policy that was the only hope for Cuban refugees for many decades. Thanks to the Trump administration’s fanatical enforcement of a highly restrictive immigration policy, this is the most dangerous time for immigrants escaping from communist countries like Cuba and Venezuela.
In 2018, this Institute responded to a cry for help from a verified (and further verifiable) Cuban dissident who fled to the United States after repeated death threats from Cuba’s State Security agency–the creation of Ernesto “Che” Guevara himself. The refugee, Alex Sosa, never entered the United States illegally. Instead, he entered Mexico, turned north and showed up at the port of entry of Brownsville, Texas, where he presented himself to uniformed CBP officers and requested asylum.
He had never set foot in the country before and therefore was not an illegal immigrant. However, he was detained at the port of entry and then held in the federal prison at Pine Prairie, Louisiana before being deported. Indeed, CBP and ICE under the Trump administration baited him with the promise of “looking into it” and then locked him up with common criminals in the correctional facility. If they had advised him before detaining him that he would be sitting in a federal prison until he could somehow come up with an immigration lawyer, Alex Sosa would simply have stayed in Mexico.
Read more about that drama:
To wrap up this discussion, we at the Mises-Mambí Institute agree with Murray Rothbard’s recommendation: “If we truly wish to be the land of the free, we must return to the traditional American policy before World War I of welcoming immigrants, of lifting our lamp by the golden door.”