A proposal to limit assistance for Cuban migrants has garnered support from GOP presidential candidate Marco Rubio and every House member of Cuban descent, Rep. Carlos Curbelo announced Friday.
The bill sponsored by Curbelo would essentially require Cubans to show they are fleeing persecution to qualify for refugee assistance. Cubans have generally been assumed to be political refugees under the Refugee Education Act of 1980 and have gotten the aid almost automatically. Assistance for refugees who have been granted asylum in the U.S. includes food stamps, disability and other tax-subsidized programs. Immigrants who enter the country illegally are not eligible for these programs.
"Together we can protect those fleeing the Castro dictatorship while ensuring that America's generosity is not being exploited and abused," Curbelo said in a statement.
The Florida congressman said that Rubio was expected to file a similar bill in the Senate next week. Rubio's Senate press office confirmed he plans to introduce a Senate version of the bill next week.
The Sun-Sentinel reported last October that some Cubans were collecting benefits while living in Cuba.
The U.S. Coast Guard has reported a recent spike in Cuban migrants setting sail, often in rickety boats, to the U.S.; Cuban migrants who are able to make it to American shores are granted entry under the country's wet foot, dry foot policy.
Curbelo opposes the steps President Barack Obama has taken to open relations with Cuba.
The House members supporting Curbelo's proposal are Republican Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida and Alex Mooney of West Virginia. Democrat Albio Sires also is backing it.