Photo credit: Day Donaldson (CC-By-2.0)
Photo credit: Day Donaldson (CC-By-2.0)

(Washington, DC) The Obama Administration failed to leverage recent negotiations with Cuba to require the regime to cooperate with U.S. deportation efforts in exchange for stronger diplomatic ties.  Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is calling on the administration to explain whether and to what extent it had pursued a commitment to take back Cuban nationals who have been ordered removed from the United States.

Cuba has habitually refused to take back people who have been ordered to be deported by U.S. immigration officials. As a result, media reports say that more than 34,000 Cuban nationals with removal orders—many of whom have criminal records—remain in American communities.  Some Cuban criminals who have been ordered to be removed, but have since been allowed to stay in the United States because of Cuba’s lack of cooperation, have gone on to commit other violent crimes.  Grassley is particularly concerned with the administration’s failure to secure an agreement with Cuba allowing for the removal of Cuban criminals who have been ordered to be deported.

Earlier this year, Grassley raised concerns about countries’ recalcitrance with regard to repatriation of individuals with final removal orders, and asked the departments of State and Homeland Security to detail steps to improve cooperation.  The recent diplomatic negotiations presented a unique, but now lost, opportunity to address the issue with Cuba.

In a recent letter, Grassley criticized Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson for failing to include as a prerequisite to renewed diplomatic ties immediate repatriation of all Cuban nationals with final removal orders. Grassley also asked the secretaries for information regarding the number of Cuban nationals in the United States who have been ordered deported and the crimes they have been convicted of. Further, Grassley asked what, if any, plan the administration has to obtain Cuban cooperation on repatriation now that the administration has just lost the one item of leverage – diplomatic recognition – that it could have used to secure such cooperation.

Full text of the letter is below:

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