CUBAN REFUGEE PROGRAM
by Ricardo Nuñez-Portuondo
Cuando se vé el extraordinario triunfo de nuestro Exilio que ha llegado a alcanzar posiciones envidiables en esta gran Nación, no es producto de la casualidad ni de la suerte. Es producto de un intenso y dedicado trabajo para avanzar económica y políticamente en nuestra Democracia sin traicionar los nobles principios que nos llevaron a estas tierras de Libertad.
Va explicado mil veces mejor en las mismas palabras de José Martí en Carta 1 al Editor del periódico New York Evening Post, March 25, 1889 y que por cortesia del estelar analítico de la Historia de Cuba, el Ingeniero José Adán, aparecen en la revista Guamá.2
Hubiese bastado en demasía la dolorosa contribución irreemplazable de sangre de juventud cubana con nuestros Mártires de Playa Girón. Participamos muy activamente en todas las batallas que originaron los comunistas en su afán de controlar el mundo. Pero al mismo tiempo, nos desarrollamos con este programa que originara el Presidente Ike Eisehower, el "Cuban Refugee Program".
Este fué el programa que entre muchas otras derivadas, todas de significación, financiara el conocido programa "Pedro Pan" y de esa fuente tambien tambien "Que pasa USA ".
Más adelante, mostraremos en un estudio, como el Exilio Cubano habia pagado con creces toda la ayuda federal que ésta gran y generosa Nación nos había dado hasta 1976. Aqui se verá la calidad humana y moral de nuestra gente. Y éste, siendo el programa de ayuda mas exitoso que había en los Estados Unidos fué cerrado por el Presidente Jimmy Carter en 1977. Hoy ya sabemos porqué.
Aprovechamos en esta introducción al "Cuban Refugee Program" y es para mí un honor, señalar en estas páginas extraordinarias de la revista Guaracabuya3 que dirige mi amigo y compañero de armas, mi hermano Miguel Uría y el también amigo Elias Seife y el de la revista Guamá, con documentos de la historia de Cuba, el comenzar a exponer, como parte obvia tambien de esa misma historia de tanta nobleza y buen gusto, la extraordinaria de nuestra Cuba en los Estados Unidos.
Letter to the editor, New York Evening Post, March 25, 1889.
Sir: I beg to be allowed the privilege of referring in your columns to the injurious criticism of the Cubans printed in the Manufacturer of Philadelphia, and reproduced in your issue of yesterday. This is not the occasion to discuss the question of the annexation of Cuba. It is probable that no self-respecting Cuban would like to see his country annexed to a nation where the leaders of opinion share towards him the prejudices excusable only to vulgar jingoism or rampant ignorance. No honest Cuban will stoop to be received as a moral pest for the sake of the usefulness of his land in a community where his ability is denied, his morality insulted, and his character despised. There are some Cubans who, from honorable motives, from an ardent admiration for progress and liberty, from a prescience of their own powers under better political conditions, from an unhappy ignorance of the history and tendency of annexation, would like to see the island annexed to the United States. But those who have fought in war and learned in exile, who have built, by the work of hands and mind, a virtuous home in the heart of an unfriendly community; who by their successful efforts as scientists and merchants, as railroad builders and engineers, as teachers, artists, lawyers, journalists, orators, and poets, as men of alert intelligence and uncommon activity, are honored wherever their powers have been called into action and the people are just enough to understand them; those who have raised, with their less prepared elements, a town of workingmen where the United States had previously a few huts in a barren cliff; those, more numerous than the others, do not desire the annexation of Cuba to the United States. They do not need it. They admire this nation, the greatest ever built by liberty, but they dislike the evil conditions that, like worms in the heart, have begun in this mighty republic their work of destruction.
They have made of the heroes of this country their own heroes, and look to the success of the American commonwealth as the crowning glory of mankind; but they cannot honestly believe that excessive individualism, reverence for wealth, and the protracted exultation of a terrible victory are preparing the United States to be the typical nation of liberty, where no opinion is to be based in greed, and no triumph or acquisition reached against charity and justice.
We love the country of Lincoln as much as we fear the country of Cutting. We are not the people of destitute vagrants or immoral pigmies that the Manufacturer is pleased to picture; nor the country of petty talkers, incapable of action, hostile to hard work, that, in a mass with the other countries of Spanish America, we are by arrogant travelers and writers represented to be. We have suffered impatiently under tyranny; we have fought like men, sometimes like giants, to be freemen; we are passing that period of stormy repose, full of germs of revolt, that naturally follows a period of excessive and unsuccessful action . . .we deserve in our misfortune the respect of those who did not help us in our need. . . .[B]ecause the healthier farmer, ruined by a war seemingly useless, turns in silence to the plough that he knew well how to exchange for the machete; because thousands of exiles, profiting by a period of calm that no human power can quicken until it is naturally exhausted, are practicing in the battle of life in the free countries the art of governing themselves and of building a nation; because our halfbreeds and city-bred young men are generally of delicate physique, of suave courtesy, and ready words, hiding under the glove that polishes the poem the hand that fells the foe - are we to be considered as the Manufacturer does consider us, an "effeminate" people? These city-bred young men and poorly built halfbreeds knew in one day how to rise against a cruel government, to pay their passages to the seat of war with the pawning of their watches and trinkets, to work their way in exile while their vessels were being kept from them by the country of the free in the interest of the foes of freedom, to obey as soldiers, sleep in the mud, eat roots, fight ten years without salary, conquer foes with the branch of a tree, die - these men of eighteen, these heirs of wealthy estates, these dusky striplings - a death not to be spoken of without uncovering the head. . . These "effeminate" Cubans had courage enough, in the face of a hostile government, to carry on their left arms for a week the mourning-band for Lincoln. The Cubans have, according the Manufacturer, "a distaste for exertion"; they are "helpless," "idle." These "helpless," "idle" men came here twenty years ago empty-handed, with very few exceptions; fought against the climate; mastered the language; lived by their honest labor, some in affluence, a few in wealth, rarely in misery; they bought or built homes; they raised families and fortunes; they loved luxury, and worked for it; they were not frequently seen in the dark roads of life; proud and self-sustaining, they never feared competition as to intelligence or diligence. . . In Philadelphia the Manufacturer has a daily opportunity to see a hundred Cubans, some of them of heroic history and powerful build, who live by their work in easy comfort. In New York the Cubans are directors in prominent banks, substantial merchants, popular brokers, clerks of recognized ability, physicians with a large practice . . . the "señora" went to work; from a slaveowner she became a slave, took a seat behind the counter, sang in the churches, worked button-holes by the hundred, sewed for a living, curled feathers, gave her soul to duty, withered in work her body.
This is the people of "defective morals." We are "unfitted by nature and experience to discharge the obligations of citizenship in a great and free country" (From the Manufacturer). This cannot be justly said of a people who possess, besides the energy that built the first railroad in Spanish dominions and established against the opposition of the government all the agencies of civilization, a truly remarkable knowledge of the body politic. . . The political knowledge of the average Cuban compares well with that of the average American citizen. Absolute freedom from religious intolerance, the love of man for the work he creates by his industry, and theoretical and practical familiarity with the laws and processes of liberty, will enable the Cuban to rebuild his country from the ruins in which he will receive it from its oppressors. It is not to be expected, for the honor of mankind, that the nation that was rocked in freedom, and received for three centuries the best blood of liberty-loving men, will employ the power thus acquired in depriving a less fortunate neighbor of its liberty.
It is, finally, said that "our lack of manly force and of self-respect is demonstrated by the supineness with which we have so long submitted to Spanish oppression, and even our attempts at rebellion have been so pitifully ineffective that they have risen little above the dignity of farce." Never was ignorance of history and character more pitifully displayed than in this wanton assertion. . . A farce! The war that has been by foreign observers compared to an epic, the upheaval of a whole country, the voluntary abandonment of wealth, the abolition of slavery in our first moment of freedom, the burning of our cities by our own hands, the erection of villages and factories in the wild forests. . .
The struggle has not ceased. The exiles do not want to return. The new generation is worthy of its sires. Hundreds of men have died in darkness since the war in the misery of prisons. With life only will this fight for liberty cease among us. And it is the melancholy truth that our efforts would have been, in all probability, successfully renewed, were it not, in some of us, for the unmanly hopes of the annexationists of securing liberty without paying its price; and the just fears of others that our dead, our sacred memories, our ruins drenched in blood would be but the fertilizers of the soil for the benefit of a foreign plant, or the occasion for a sneer from the Manufacturer of Philadelphia.
With sincere thanks for the space you have kindly allowed me, I am, sir, yours very respectfully,
Fiscal Year 1977
PHILIP A. HOLMAN, SPECIAL ASSISTANT, REFUGEE ASSISTANCE PROGRAM GLYNN W. BAKER, FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT OFFICER, REFUGEE ASSISTANCE PROGRAM ANNA PERKINS, DIRECTOR, BUDGET DIVISION, SOCIAL AND REHABILITATION SERVICE WILFORD J. FORBUSH, DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY (BUDGET)PREPARED STATEMENT
Senator Inouye. Our next witness is Mr. Ricardo Nuñez, director of the Cuban refugee program, for which the President has requested $82 million in fiscal year 1977.
Mr. Nuñez, your statement will be printed in the hearing record in its entirety. Is there anything you would like to add before we proceed.
Mr. NUÑEZ. No.
[The statement follows:]
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, I an very pleased to have this opportunity to present the appropriation request for the Cuban Refugee Program for fiscal year 1977.
An appropriation of $82 million is requested for 1977 -- a reduction of $3 million as compared with the amount of $85 million estimated to be needed for 1976.
The request for 1977 is based on the assumption that, as in recent years, relatively few new Cuban refugees will reach the United States and that present program policies will be continued during 1977. These basic policies are (1) 100 percent reimbursement to the States for welfare and medical assistance to needy eligible refugees and (2) continuation of the present level of aid to the Dade County, Florida, public schools to help offset part of the cost of education of refugee schoolchildren.
In formulating this request, Mr. Chairman, we have taken into consideration the fact that previous proposals calling for the phasedown and termination of the Cuban Refugee Program -- which were presented for each of the last '~ years -- were not accepted by the Congress.
Therefore, in lieu of presenting such a proposal again at this time, we have concluded that it is appropriate to recommend the continuation of the program on the basis of existing policies during 1977 while we reassess the economic situation of the refugees, their impact on the State of Florida and Dade County, where the major concentration is located, and the advisability of new, and possibly different, proposals for future reduction and termination of the Refugee Program.
In this connection, we are planning to have a study carried out of the tax base attributable to the Cuban population of Florida and
Dade County. We believe that the results of such a study -- accompanied by an analysis of the potential impact on State and local funding of possible policy changes in the Refugee Program -- will shed additional light on the advisability of alternative proposals for future program reductions. Upon its completion, this study will be provided to the Committee.
The appropriation request for 1977 reflects a continuation of the general trend of decreasing program requirements which has occurred since the Cuban refugee airlift was terminated in 1973. The major factors in these decreases have been: (1) That relatively few new Cuban refugees have been reaching, or are expected to reach, the United States; (2) that, since January 1974, financial assistance to needy aged, blind, and disabled refugees has been provided under the program of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) rather than through the Refugee Program; (3) that substantial reductions were made in the staff of the Refugee Program concomitant with the interruptions in the airlift and its termination; (4) that major decreases have occurred in the resettlement program as the influx of new refugees has diminished; and (5) that the loan program for needy Cuban refugee college students have been phased down since September 1973.
As in previous years, most of the program's funds will be utilized for reimbursements to the States for welfare and medical assistance for needy refugees; this will account for about 82 percent of program costs in 1977. The second largest item, accounting for 15 percent of the budget, is aid to the Dade County public schools. The remaining 3 percent relates to overall operations and other program services, primarily training, which includes adult English and vocational courses, professional re- fresher training, and residual loans under the reduced loan program for college students.
Let me now turn briefly, Mr. Chairman, to each of the major activities of the program. Activity 1: Welfare Assistance and Services
Nearly all of the estimated decrease of $3 million between 1976 and 1977 is accounted for by anticipated reductions in the funding requirements for the activity Welfare Assistance and Services, which comprises reimbursements to the States for welfare and medical assistance for needy refugees.
This activity will require an estimated $67.5 million in 1977 as compared with $70.2 million in 1976, a reduction of $2.7 million.
This decrease is expected to result from the fact that few new refugees are entering the United States and that improvements in the labor market will lead to a reduction in the number of refugees requiring assistance. As I have indicated, no change is planned in reimbursing the States 100 percent for welfare and medical assistance during 1977.
During 1977, we estimate that the Cuban Refugee Program will be responsible for both financial and medical assistance to an average of 24,400 needy refugees, of whom approximately 11,000 will be located in Florida and 13,400 in other States. In addition, the program will be responsible for the cost of only medical assistance for an estimated 40,000 refugees, including 25,000 in Florida and 15,000 in other States eligible for such assistance from the program; all of these would be persons who are receiving financial assistance through the SSI program.
Activity 2: Education
The Education activity consists of aid to the Dade County public school system; loans to needy Cuban refugee college students; and adult English, vocational, and professional refresher training.
The estimate for these purposes in 1977 is $13.2 million, a reduction of $300,000 as compared with 1976. One-half of this reduction is expected to occur in loans to college students, and the other half in adult English, vocational, and professional refresher training.
As I mentioned earlier, a phasedown in the loan program for needy Cuban college students was initiated in September 1973. Beginning on that date, new borrowers were no longer accepted under the Cuban loan program but current borrowers were permitted to continue in order that their education would not be interrupted. At the same time, new applicants for loans were instructed to apply under the regular federally aided grant and loan programs for which the U.S. Office of Education had determined that refugees are eligible to apply.
The decrease in English, vocational, and professional refresher training is expected to occur as the result of few new refugees reaching the United States and training having been completed for most refugee professionals in Miami who were able to take advantage of an opportunity to qualify to practice their professions under a Florida law enacted in 1974. This law permits foreign-educated professionals to qualify for State licensing in their native language upon completion of 1 year of professional refresher training. We will continue to place emphasis on English and vocational training to help refugee welfare recipients to become self-supporting.
The request for 1977 proposes $12.4 million for assistance to the Dade County public schools to partially offset the cost of education of refugee pupils. This would continue the annual level, which has been in effect since 1974, when this amount was set by the Congress in action rejecting the proposal to phase down the Refugee Program.
Activity 3: Other Services
The final activity covers reception, registration, and orientation services for refugees; information and referral to appropriate community agencies; services provided by the voluntary resettlement agencies; and Federal direction and day-to-day operation of the program.
The request for this activity is $1.3 million for 1977, the same as in 1976.
Staffing in 1977 would be expected to remain at the 1976 level of 35 positions, with 31 located in Miami, Florida, and 4 in Washington, D. C. This level -- which represents a reduction of 4 positions as compared with 1975 and a reduction of 135 positions as compared with the average employment of 170 in 1971 -- is considered to be the minimal level required for day-to-day operation of the program.
In 1977, increased staff emphasis will be placed on bringing, the needs of refugees to the attention of other public agencies and nonprofit service organizations in order to seek greater cooperation of established community institutions in providing refugees with training opportunities and other types of needed services.
Mr. Chairman, that concludes my prepared statement. We will be pleased to try to answer any questions that you and the Members of the Committee may have.
PHASEDOWN OF PROGRAM
Senator Inouye. Mr. Nuñez, you state that in preparing this budget you were mindful that previous proposals calling for phasedown were not accepted by the Congress. You are in charge of the program. Do you believe there should be phasedown?
Mr. NUÑEZ. Mr. Chairman, we are going to conduct a study in Dade County, where we have the largest concentration of Cuban refugees, to determine if a phaseout should be presented in future years.
At the present time, we don't have an opinion on this point. The study will be conducted by a national firm and bids will be put out in the very near future. We. do hope that we are going to have the results of the study by June 30, and we will pass copies of it to you. We will then have to evaluate the data collected and formulate proposals concerning the program's future.
Senator Inouye. We will appreciate that very much.
How would you say, in general, is the present condition of the Cuban refugees in the United States? Are they doing well?
Mr. NUÑEZ. Yes, sir. We do have, all over the United States, about 650,000 Cubans, with the largest concentration of them in Dade County. I do believe that they are doing well. I do believe that they are getting into the mainstream of American life, even though this is a unique group.
Senator INOUYE. How many Cuban refugees are presently in Miami, in Dade County?
Mr. NUÑEZ. There is a total of about 450,000 Cubans, including children born in this country, now in Dade County.
Senator INOUYE. Of the total number of refugees, how many are receiving benefits from this refugee program?
Mr. NUÑEZ. We have a figure of about 72,000 in 1976. We project for 1977 a total of 64,000.
Senator INOUYE. In other words, the others are doing well enough so that they do not need any special assistance?
Mr. NUÑEZ. Yes, Mr. Chairman.
Senator INOUYE. I would like to congratulate you for the work you and your agency have done. You can be sure, as we have in the past, we will give you full support, sir.
Mr. NUÑEZ. Thank you.
Senator INOUYE. Thank you very much. That was easy.
U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE
71-609 0 WASHINGTON:1976