Originally published on Medium
“8 days in the US and I already have my full health care card. Without paying a dollar I have full medical insurance. They say in Cuba that if you get sick in this country and don’t have money, you die. Well, I tell you that is one of the many lies of the Cuban regime. They also give you a phone to report with immigration to all those entering across the border.”
This was posted on Facebook and promptly shared by a prominent activist in Cuba which led to the post garnering widespread attention. Naturally, I responded to the activist adding some much-needed nuance. As expected, the activist didn’t respond.
I then shared the post on my Facebook page with similar context added leading to an exchange with a Cuban American in Miami who I’ll call Mr. Miami. Below is my post which can be found here:
“This dude is bragging about getting healthcare after being here in the U.S. for only 8 days. He argues that the Cuban government is lying when they say that without insurance, people here die.
“See the type of propaganda they use? See how they give Cubans all these benefits so they can make these ridiculous arguments?
“Cubans in the U.S. decry socialism, yet they are one of the only immigrant groups who benefit from the same policies they denounce in Cuba.
“The hypocrisy is astounding.”
Let me be clear, I am not denouncing the original poster as a hypocrite. Most immigrants don’t know any better. What I’m talking about is the state. The “system,” for lack of a better term. I’m not for denying migrants and asylum-seekers much-needed benefits. This country doesn’t do enough to treat the immigrant community humanely as it is. Benefits helping them succeed is an investment in their importance in the economy as taxpayers.
Hypocrisy is how little the state does for the Black community and how little government does to provide guaranteed healthcare, housing, and employment for its people. Instead, anyone who knows our system (approximately 350 million U.S. citizens) knows exactly how people die due to a lack of insurance or go into bankruptcy because of medical debt.
Turns out, the Cuban government knows it too. This is why they use it as part of their propaganda machine. We’ve all heard the horror stories from millions of people who discuss how a single medical incident bankrupted them, ruined their credit, and has made it impossible to achieve the so-called “American dream”. No new cars. No buying a house. Nothing.
Most Cubans get it. Others, not so much.
What Cuban Immigrants Get Wrong
Cuban immigrants have the impression that the ease of adapting to society just 90 miles North of their homeland is the same for all U.S. citizens. To be clear, many immigrants feel this way (Asian, African, Latin American, etc.). They like to say, “look at me, I started from nothing when I got here,” often using that against Black people and sometimes, poor white people.
What they don’t understand is starting from zero would be welcomed by the Black community. But in the U.S., as I often say, the Black community starts from a negative, that is, below the zero starting point many immigrants brag about.
The difficulties Black people face in the U.S. are rarely understood by anyone outside of their community. Particularly, immigrants who are living a “dream” that wouldn’t exist without the enslaved labor and generational trauma imposed on the Black people who built the foundations of this country.
This leads me to the response on Facebook from Mr. Miami who said I, and people like me, are lazy drug addicts. It’s quite reminiscent of a figure of speech made popular by the Ronald Reagan administration. Remember the “welfare queens” trope and how it was used against Black people (Black women especially)? Yeah, me too.
Sadly, it’s still used today. Except, immigrants apply it more broadly against anyone struggling in the broken-by-design Western capitalism the U.S. abides. One that many Cubans think is infallible.
Early in the conversation, I said:
“You say people here don’t die because they don’t have health insurance. The truth is that they die every day… There are 10 million children in the United States who don’t know where their next meal will come from. There are also millions living on the streets. And this is good?
The response from Mr. Miami was quite telling:
“In the US, people who do not have insurance is because they do not want to or are lazy to apply for low income [housing] (Section 8).”
After a couple of rants calling me a communist, Mr. Miami goes on to say:
“If you are an employee your employer must offer you medical insurance, if a person owes 700,000 for being lazy and irresponsible in medical matters, you can reach an agreement and pay small fees of up to $50 a month.”
Then, Mr. Miami continued, ranting about the 10 million children who don’t know where their next meal is coming from with something from Reagan’s playbook:
“The 10 million children who don’t eat are because their parents are drug addicts and live on the streets, and even so, if the government sees them in need, the Court takes them away and gives them to people who dedicate themselves to taking care of them, the government pays them, that is why they are called Foster Homes.”
He then accused me of trying to “make the United States collapse” as he continued to call me a communist. Far too many Cuban Americans do this when you challenge their views about the U.S. Many have the belief that unfettered capitalism is perfect the way it is. But, it isn’t until their government benefits run out a few months later that they realize this.
Responding to Capitalist Brainwashing
When their children don’t have that special status that comes with being an exile from Cuba (or Haiti for that matter), then they begin to realize just how crooked society in the U.S. can be. Many Cubans go back to the island because of this. Homelessness is something not seen in Cuba. The prospect of such a thing happening to them is scary. As is the overt and covert racism here.
By now, I’m sure the reader is questioning how people who run from a socialist country are thrilled with accepting help from socialist programs in the U.S. For many of us, it is the elephant in the room that’s bellowing hypocrisy with every breath. It is with my knowledge and experience addressing racial, political, and social issues that I responded in kind:
“That is pure racist propaganda. Don’t tell so many lies. To get section 8 takes years. The insurance for me and the family costs thousands each month. To pay for that, would leave me on the street. As it is for millions. That’s why I owe… I don’t do drugs or even drink beer.”
I continued after Mr. Miami claimed I was being disrespectful:
“I am not a communist. I’m talking about your lies. Everything is not as perfect as you say. You are the one who says that what I owe is because I’m lazy. That is also a complete lie. If you don’t respect me, I won’t respect you either.”
Look, I get it. Many immigrants think things are super easy for everyone. Aside from Cubans and Haitians who benefit from federal programs if they are declared “Cuban-Haitian Entrants” by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), immigrants don’t typically qualify to receive federal benefits until they become citizens. Some states do offer benefits via very limited funding.
I’ve written about immigrants receiving benefits before and in the grand scheme of things (cost-wise), it’s a no-brainer. Immigrants benefit U.S. society as a whole. Immigrants sustain our social programs because they use them less than white people do. They pay into the programs far more than they take out. That’s a simple fact that can’t just be argued away.
Cubans like to talk shit about the Cuban government. Especially once they leave the island. It doesn’t matter where they end up, whether it’s Spain, Mexico, or the U.S. When they get to where they’re going, they’re overcome by the access to the things not available on the island. The natural reaction is going to be something along the lines of, “life in Cuba sucks!”
An honest and perfectly rational response.
But this is about how the U.S. government uses them as pawns in its little imperialist and oppressive cold war against Cubans prolonging their suffering. This is also about the hypocrisy of the state mentioned earlier.
It pains me to see people, my people, being played like that. It compels me to call it out. And if they call me a communist (or whatever), truth is, I wouldn’t be Cuban if I didn’t have love for my people.
And with that, I’ll leave you with my comment that rightfully ended my the exchange with Mr. Miami:
“They give you benefits so that you can use them as propaganda against Cuba and the Cubans who support the government. But for others, the [U.S.] government does not give [people] everything you have. It is a cold war with Cuba. You are tools in that war. That’s the truth.”