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Board of Immigration Appeals Limits Cuban Eligibility for Benefits Under the Cuban Adjustment Act

Posted by Hugo R. Valverde, Managing Attorney, and Anna D. Colby, Attorney Social Media Marketing Manager | Nov 29, 2023 | 0 Comments

Photo by AXP Photography on Unsplash

It is very confusing when the government treats the same population of people differently from one another. 

Yet it's happened in several instances with immigrants to the United States, and it's the cause of widespread confusion in the Cuban-American community right now. 

Historically, Cubans who entered the United States have had the ability to apply for green cards. In 1966 Congress passed the Cuban Adjustment Act, which gave Cubans living in the U.S. for one year or more a path to permanent residency, provided they met certain eligibility criteria. For almost 60 years, Cubans applying for permanent residency under the Cuban Adjustment Act have had to show that they:

  • Were a native or citizen of Cuba;

  • Were inspected and admitted or paroled after Jan. 1, 1959;

  • Have been physically present in the United States for at least one year at the time you file your Form I-485;

  • Are physically present in the United States at the time Form I-485 is filed;

  • Are admissible to the United States for lawful permanent residence or eligible for a waiver of inadmissibility or other form of relief; and

  • Merit the favorable exercise of USCIS' discretion.

Almost three million people belonging to the Cuban diaspora live in the United States, and a large amount of them have been beneficiaries of the Cuban Adjustment Act. 

Now, a new ruling from the Board of Immigration Appeals is causing frustration. One of the eligibility requirements for a Cuban to apply for permanent residence is that they “were inspected and admitted or paroled after Jan. 1, 1959.” 

People who enter the United States with visas and go through Customs and Immigration at an airport are usually considered ‘admitted.' But those entering through a border and requesting entrance without a visa may receive a type of parole, and are therefore ‘paroled in' rather than ‘admitted.' However, some Cubans received ‘conditional parole' when they entered and others received ‘humanitarian parole.'

On September 11, 2023, the Board of Immigration Appeals overruled an immigration judge in Matter of Olty CABRERA-FERNANDEZ, et al., Respondents and determined that “Applicants for admission who are released on conditional parole rather than humanitarian parole have not been “inspected and admitted or paroled,” and accordingly are not eligible for adjustment of status” under the Cuban Adjustment Act. 

This ruling impacts a large number of Cubans in the U.S., and is understandably quite upsetting. In the midst of such a ruling, there is some hope though. Cubans who have conditional parole may still be eligible to apply for asylum, which if granted leads to permanent residence. 

There have also been reports recently of some Cubans receiving humanitarian parole letters in the mail from USCIS - changing their parole status after they were released conditionally with a Form I-220A. These parole status letters have not been consistently given, so please talk with an immigration attorney if you have questions about it. 

If you need assistance with applying for permanent residency, or another immigration status, please reach out to us at (757) 422-8472, or send us a message on our website. You can also schedule an appointment with one of our attorneys by clicking on this link.

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