In his frequent visits to Miami’s Little Havana this campaign season, Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani has stoked the Cuban Americans crowds with tough rhetoric about fidel castro and his dictatorship.
What he hasn’t said, might be more revealing.
The Village Voice reports in a story about Giuliani’s record on immigration, that he has not always been so friendly to Cubans arriving in this country, starting in 1981 when he was associate attorney general in in Ronald Reagan’s Justice Department and had to manage the after-effects of the Mariel boatlift a year earlier:
The Carter administration had promised to grant resident status to Mariel Cubans (minus the criminals). But Reagan put a temporary stop to that: Instead, the INS categorized the Mariel refugees as “entrants” for more than three years, an uncertain status that deprived them of family unification and other rights.
The INS (under a statute overseen by Associate Attorney General Giuliani at the DOJ) also ordered the deportation of a Cuban refugee who had stowed away on a freighter that arrived in Florida from Argentina in December 1981 — the first time that a Cuban had been barred from entering the U.S. since Castro came to power. When another stowaway was flown directly back to Cuba a month later by the Reagan administration, 5,000 Cubans protested in Miami, and one prominent Hispanic columnist proclaimed it “the end of an era.” (emphasis added)
Besides implementing White House policies, Giuliani also ran the detention camps where thousands of the Mariel refugees — some criminal and some not — were held. In response to inquiries from the president about why 950 of the Mariel Cubans were still being detained at Fort Chaffee in Arkansas a year and a half after the Reagan administration had taken office, Giuliani wrote a June 6, 1982, memo explaining that the Cubans “have problems that prevent their release into the community.” Since none were criminals, Giuliani listed their problems as: “250 mentally ill and retarded; 400 antisocial; 100 homosexuals; 100 alcoholics or drug users; 100 women, babies, elderly and handicapped.” Why gays (a crime in Castro’s Cuba) or women with babies, among others, had to be detained was not explained. Giuliani was also in charge of the 1,050 Cubans jailed in an Atlanta prison — many of whom were serious criminals, including murderers and rapists. But a federal judge ruled in 1983 that the Justice Department could not hold the aliens indefinitely without establishing on a case-by-case basis that their continued detention was justified—an indictment of Giuliani’s actions. (That decision was ultimately reversed by an appeals court that found the Cubans had no rights.)
In late 1984, castro and the Reagan administration reached an agreement that permitted the repatriation of the worst of the criminals who had come to America as part of the boatlift. But until then, and throughout the years that Giuliani oversaw Cuban-refugee matters, the Reagan administration had refused to allow up to 23,000 Cubans whose immigration to the U.S. had been approved by castro. This included 1,500 ex–political prisoners whose entry had been approved by the Carter administration. Over the protests of U.S. officials in Havana who had arranged the transfer of the political prisoners and others who had families in the U.S., Reagan broke off talks with castro for years.
Maybe Giuliani was only following orders.
If so, what does that say about his boss, long thought of as a patron of Cuban liberty?
(Cross-posted at Uncommon Sense.)