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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Why Can Cubans Stay in the U.S.?

Q: Why is it that when a Cuban lands on U.S. soil, he is permitted to stay, yet when a Mexican/Hispanic lands on U.S. soil, he cannot?

A: Cuban immigrants were given special status by an act of Congress in the 1960s.


The Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966 gives Cubans a right to become legal permanent residents once they have reached the U.S. and have been here for one year, provided that the U.S. Attorney General doesn’t object. Cubans are the only nationality to which Congress has awarded this special treatment. The legislative history of the act makes clear that immigrants from Cuba are considered to be refugees under international law. Congress amended the act in 1996 to specify that it will be repealed if and when Cuba becomes a democracy.

-Brooks Jackson


Wasem, Ruth Ellen. "Cuban Migration Policy and Issues." Congressional Research Service, 19 Jan. 2006.