U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL):
“Castro uses refugees as pawns to get more concessions from Washington so there is no reason to do away with the Cuban medical doctor program, which is a foolhardy concession to a regime that sends its doctors to foreign nations in a modern-day indentured servitude. The repeal of the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program was done because that’s what the Cuban dictatorship wanted and the White House caved to what Castro wants, instead of standing up for U.S. democratic values and seeking the return of fugitives from U.S. justice like Joanne Chesimard or seeking compensation for U.S. citizens for their confiscated properties. In another bad deal by the Obama administration, it has traded wet foot/dry foot for the elimination of an important program which was undermining the Castro regime by providing an outlet for Cuban doctors to seek freedom from forced labor which only benefits an oppressive regime.”
U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL):
“With just eight days left in his administration, President Obama has found one more way to frustrate the democratic aspirations of the Cuban people and provide yet another shameful concession to the Castro regime. Under President Obama’s misguided view, after having removed the Castro regime from the state sponsor of terror list and granting diplomatic recognition, the next logical step is denying oppressed Cubans the presumption of political asylum.
“Since 1966, the Cuban Refugee Adjustment Act has provided a lifeline to generations of Cubans fleeing oppression. Many made the treacherous journey to begin their lives anew in freedom, and others perished trying to escape. In addition, the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program provided a way for doctors forced to work under inhumane conditions for paltry salaries in foreign lands to escape their servitude.
“President Obama’s policy toward the Castro regime has not improved human rights or increased liberty on the island. To the contrary, documented political arrests reached close to 10,000 in 2016 as renowned activists such as Berta Soler, Danilo Maldonado Machado “El Sexto,” and labor activists including Ivan Carrillo Hernandez suffered brutal arrests just in the past few weeks. El Sexto remains in prison today and his American lawyer, Kim Motley, was harassed and interrogated while in Cuba simply for representing him. Cubans are leaving the island in record numbers, and many of the 53 who were released as part of the Obama-Castro deal were subsequently rearrested.
“President Obama’s numerous concessions and extension of diplomatic recognition to the murderous Castro regime does not constitute an achievement. To the contrary, his policy has been a succession of betrayals of America’s longstanding commitment to human rights and freedom, and a betrayal of the Cuban people who have suffered under oppression for far too long. This last act of diminishing lifelines to Cubans languishing in totalitarianism is one final despicable betrayal of a people who deserve better from an American president.”
U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ):
“As a beacon of light for those fleeing persecution and oppression, the United States has a rich history of creating programs specifically designed to provide a safe haven and refuge for those who truly need it. Throughout their murderous reign, hundreds of thousands of Cubans have fled from the Castros’ regime seeking safe haven in the United States. Those who further risked their lives by sea and reached our shores have been afforded the opportunity to expedite their claims to U.S. citizenship.
“These policies reflect our commitment to the values of liberty and democracy. We should never deny a Cuban refugee fleeing a brutal regime entry into the United States. We must remind ourselves every day of the continued oppression and human suffering that is happening – not only halfway around the world, but just 90 miles off our shores. The ongoing repressive behavior of the Cuban regime still haunts our hemisphere today.
“The fact is the recent ill-conceived changes in American policy towards Cuba have rewarded the regime with an economic lifeline while leaving every day Cubans less hopeful about their futures under a brutal totalitarian dictatorship. And while more needs to be done to prevent the small universe arriving from Cuba who may seek to exploit the privileges and freedoms that come with the Wet-Foot Dry-Foot policy, those few actors should not destroy our efforts to protect the many who are forced to flee persecution.
“To be sure, today’s announcement will only serve to tighten the noose the Castro regime continues to have around the neck of its own people.
“Congress was not consulted prior to this abrupt policy announcement with just nine days left in this administration. The Obama administration seeks to pursue engagement with the Castro regime at the cost of ignoring the present state of torture and oppression, and its systematic curtailment of freedom.”