As part of its reorientation of policy in the Western Hemisphere, the Trump Administration needs to close every loophole in U.S. law used by Cuba to undermine, supported by Russia and China, U.S. national and security interests. While the number one priority must be to find out what happened to Americans working at the U.S. Embassy in Havana starting toward the end of the prior administration and hold the perpetrators to account, there is a lot to do in the U.S.-Cuba policy space. And, who knows, it may also help U.S. and Florida law enforcement further crackdown on the rampant Medicare and insurance fraud that takes place between South Florida and Cuba.
Allowing lawsuits for property stolen from Americans was a long-overdue measure. Lowering remittance caps also welcome, yet they need to go much lower. The targeted sanctions have also worked. However, more pressing: curbing abuses to U.S. migration and asylum laws with respect to Cuba. The Trump administration must impose a moratorium, effective immediately, on the entry to the United States of Cuban healthcare professionals. The administration should also increase efforts already underway to curb abuse of the family reunification parole program.
Since the start of the Communist takeover in 1959, Cuba has excelled, helped by Russia and after the Cold War, China and Russia, in exaggerating its power and reach. The Cuba healthcare miracle is the myth. Cuba’s healthcare foreign missions – better called medical spy cells – are part of this façade. Cuba’s 11 million citizens have paid a high price because of this romantic experiment. Most Cubans depend on family members in the Diaspora, sending the basics such as aspirin or antibiotics because Cuba’s state-run system is broken and workers taxed to the limits.
Cuba’s medical spy cells include doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers that are part of Cuba’s socialist elite. The only people allowed to join this vanguard are people approved by the Communist Party. They provide medical services in foreign nations but are also expected to spread socialist thinking and spy on their hosts. Most Cuban medical spy cells are true believers who harbor immense animus toward the United States, free-market capitalism, private property, or individual rights. Exceptions are reportedly many, but despite U.S. efforts since the Bush Administration to undermine the program, it remains intact and operational.
Over the years, I’ve been told by experts not to be too hard on them; most are brainwashed, I am told. That is crazy talk, yet I know many doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals who break with the system. These few brave men and women instinctually knew that something was wrong. President George W. Bush awarded the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom to one such Cuban medical professional, Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet. Dr. Biscet went through the Communist system, but when he learned the truth, aided by his Christian faith, Dr. Biscet turned against the regime and paid a high price.
Sentenced to 25 years in prison by one of Cuba’s kangaroo courts, Dr. Biscet was locked up for 12 years, tortured physically and psychologically. Yet he never gave in and was released when the regime buckled under international and U.S. pressure to release him. Dr. Biscet remains as defiant today as he was when he was locked up for exposing the hypocrisy of the Cuban medical system, how it manipulates data and devalues human life. Rather than leave Cuba, Dr. Biscet, who can no longer practice medicine because of his political views, has stayed and works daily for a free Cuba for his people.
The healthcare medical mission cells deployed to nations the world over are not the Dr. Biscets of Cuba; it is the hardline socialists joined by Cuban intelligence officers. They are the frontline believers used by Cuba, Russia, and to a lesser extent, China, to undermine free markets and individual rights. Not all medical professionals are “spies,” and some dislike immensely what they do as soon as they spend a few years in the field.
Cuban healthcare professionals in Cuba and on foreign medical missions are treated like chattel, modern-day slaves of a socialist plantation headed by the Communist Party elites. Stripped of the right to contract, the regime and the host nation negotiate medical spy cell contracts. In return for these lucrative medical workers, host nations give Cuba cash, oil, intelligence, and other things of value. The majority of the Cuban medical cells are in countries led by socialists or social-democratic leaders.
America needs to help the future Dr. Biscets come out of the cold and should urge allies to do the same. The Trump Administration can do this by closing a loophole to U.S. immigration policy started during the Bush Administration. The Bush team thought if they offered parole to Cuban medical professionals, it would weaken Cuba’s medical spy diplomacy and deny the regime money and prestige. While a well-intentioned plan, the program was a failure and a security risk. It still is.
In an obsequious gesture to the regime, one of many, the President Barack Obama’s national security team canceled the Cuban Medical Parole Program (“CMPP”); however, it remains on the books and as recently as last week a DHS official told me it could still be used by a crafty lawyer to secure parole for a client. The Trump administration is reportedly considering using the Cuban Family Reunification Program (“CFRP”) parole program to accomplish the same thing. This, too, should also be shelved.
This may upset South Florida HMOs or hospitals looking for Cuban doctors and nurses to work as blood technicians or physical therapists, but closing this loophole is a matter of U.S. security. There are plenty of Americans needing jobs who can be trained to do this sort of work. Closing this loophole may also help U.S. and Florida law enforcement crack down further on the seemingly ramptant insurance and Medicare fraud in South Florida that, at times, have strong connections to the island gulag (Read a few stories about Cuba-linked healthcare fraud here, here, here, and a recent December 22, 2019, story here).
The program has become an economic incentive for Cubans seeking to make money in the United States; it is not a “break with the system” program. This may upset South Florida HMOs or hospitals looking for Cuban doctors and nurses to work as blood technicians or physical therapists, but closing this loophole is a matter of U.S. security. There are plenty of Americans needing jobs who can be trained to do this sort of work. Cuban healthcare professionals should focus on returning to Cuba, take back the profession and their rights.
There was no guarantee when the CMPP was created, just like there is none today, that Cuban medical professionals seeking asylum were interested in breaking politically with the system. It also provided Cuban intelligence yet one more way to penetrate the United States. All Cuba migration needs an overhaul starting with the Cuban healthcare workers. Why should the United States rely on Cuba to make a parole decision for legal permanent residency or citizenship? This was a big mistake of the Bush Administration and the Congress. The Trump administration should end it once and for all.
Cuba needs to be held to account for harming U.S. national and security interests, including during Russia’s and China’s dirty work in the Americas and other nations. Frustrating Cuba’s ability to use medical slaves in the Americas would be a good part of a comprehensive strategy that should include a “maximum pressure” campaign on Cuba and nations who support them by signing contracts for medical slave labor. America should do its part by imposing a permanent freeze on paroling Cuban medical workers in the United States and undertaking a comprehensive review of the family reunification visa program.