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Cuban immigrants may lose U.S. benefits

Dec. 10, 2010 at 12:53 PM

MIAMI, Dec. 10 (UPI) -- A change in immigration procedures will deny some Cubans many benefits when they arrive in the United States, Florida is warning.

"If our understanding is correct, this change will have serious unanticipated consequences for the state of Florida and particularly for Miami-Dade County," state Children and Families Secretary George Sheldon wrote to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

More than 3,200 Cubans will lose health screenings and immunizations, Medicaid and Refugee Medical Assistance, employment services, child care and language and vocational training, The Miami Herald quotes the letter as saying.

Hiram Ruiz, head of state refugee services in Miami-Dade, said Homeland Security is discussing the matter, but there has yet to be an official reply.

The change, announced by the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana Oct. 27, affects only spouses and minor children of legal U.S. residents being processed through the Cuban Family Reunification Program. They are to be treated as regular immigrant visa applicants beginning Jan. 1.

Under the program, established in 2007 to speed Cubans' visa applications, people approved for entry are quickly "paroled" into the United States and need not wait on the island for visas.

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