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2017 Undergraduate Research Symposium-Bryce Sprauer

Bryce Sprauer “Current Cuban Migration: Manifestations of Political Privilege and Economic Violence”
How are policies and geopolitical relations between Cuba, Central America, and the United States generating a new increase of Cuban migration and what is the impact on both migrants and citizens of the nations involved? This question provides an exploration of the stark contradictions in economic and immigration politics in the region between these key sending, transit, and receiving states. On the one hand, more than any country in history, Cuba has experienced the longest and most severe economic sanctions than any other country by the U.S. embargo, currently lasting 56 years, causing indirect violence in the form of restricted access to medications and resources. On the other hand, Cubans are the only nationality in the world that the United States provides the exceptional privilege of automatic refugee status upon arriving in the United States. While there are a wide variety of economic and commercial sanctions on Cuba, there are also a multitude of U.S. policies that enable and encourage the immigration of Cubans, specifically working, educated professionals. These seemingly contradictory angles of geopolitics facilitate economic suffering and incentivize a “brain drain” with the aim of weakening Cuba’s socialist government and imposing a democratic society as defined by the U.S. For context, Guatemalans who are fleeing extreme cases of femicide, organized violence, and violent identity-based discrimination have their asylum requests accepted at a rate of 1.8% and are labeled by United States government entities as merely economic migrants; meanwhile, Cubans, leaving the island primarily for economic opportunity, receive an automatic, federally sanctioned status of “refugee” and are provided benefits such as work visas, healthcare, higher education scholarships, and eligibility to gain citizenship after residing in the United States for a year and one day. My research focuses on Cuban migrants as they pass through Central America, which reveals the contradictory nature of discrepancies in the treatment of immigrants for political reasons. My research is propelled by the ample requests from both Cubans and Mexicans for research on the political history that informs the recent migration of Cubans. The purpose of my research is to illustrate how both U.S. economic and immigration policies toward Cuba, including the current negotiations between Presidents Obama and Raul Castro, impact and shape the regional politics as well as reinforce the inequitable, if not discriminatory, effects on migrants from Central America, the very region that Cubans are passing through to get the United States.