The New York Times editorial board supports comprehensive immigration reform that would give millions of illegal immigrants a path to citizenship. In the meantime, the Times’ editors want President Obama to take "big and bold" action on his own that would effectively legalize millions of unauthorized immigrants.
But while the Times does not appear to have a problem with illegal immigration, its editors have found at least one form of legal immigration they want to stop. In an editorial published on Sunday, the board lamented the "Cuban brain drain" brought on by U.S. immigration policy. Specifically, they want to do away with a program allowing highly trained Cuban doctors to defect to the United States while serving on medical missions abroad:
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There is much to criticize about Washington’s failed policies toward Cuba and the embargo it has imposed on the island for decades. But the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program, which in the last fiscal year enabled 1,278 Cubans to defect while on overseas assignments, a record number, is particularly hard to justify.
It is incongruous for the United States to value the contributions of Cuban doctors who are sent by their government to assist in international crises like the 2010 Haiti earthquake while working to subvert that government by making defection so easy.
American immigration policy should give priority to the world’s neediest refugees and persecuted people. It should not be used to exacerbate the brain drain of an adversarial nation at a time when improved relations between the two countries are a worthwhile, realistic goal.
The Times goes on to note that, by the way, some of the Cuban doctors seeking asylum have complained of coercion and wage garnishment. As the Los Angeles Times reported last month, the Cuban government keeps about 10,000 healthcare workers in Venezuela as "payment" for Venezuelan oil. Many have tried to escape what they describe as "crushing" workloads:
Nelia, a 29-year-old general practitioner from Santiago de Cuba, arrived in Bogota last month after what she said was a nightmarish year working in Venezuela's Barrio Adentro program in the city of Valencia. She declined to disclose her last name for fear of reprisal back home.
Nelia said her disillusionment started on her arrival in Caracas' Maiquetia airport in mid-2013. She and several colleagues waited there for two days, sometimes sleeping in chairs, before authorities assigned her to a clinic in Valencia, she said.
"It was all a trick. They tell you how great it's going to be, how you will able to buy things and how grateful Venezuelans are to have you. Then comes the shock of the reality," Nelia said. Her clinic in Valencia had no air conditioning and much of the ultrasound equipment she was supposed to use to examine pregnant women was broken.
If the Times’ editors get their way, these doctors would be out of luck. Unless, of course, the Cuban government follows their advice to "compensate medical personnel more generously." Until then, the United States will continue to welcome hundreds of highly trained medical professionals fleeing persecution to its shores. What a tragedy.