Cuban-Americans began embracing the GOP in the early 1960s after the Bay of Pigs invasion, which failed to topple Fidel Castro. The loyalty deepened after President Ronald Reagan courted Cubans with his anti-Castro policies.
The U.S. amended the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966, which had provided Cubans in the country with temporary visas and a path to legal citizenship, with what is known as the "wet foot, dry foot policy." The 1995 measure allows Cubans who reach American shores, "dry foot," to apply for legal residency and eventually citizenship. Cubans who are intercepted at sea, "wet foot," are returned to Cuba or sent to another country that will accept them.
By comparison, Congress has for years refused to rewrite immigration laws to provide U.S. residency for immigrants in the country without legal permission, many of whom are from Mexico. It also voted down a bill that would have given residency to immigrants brought to the country by their parents who entered or stayed illegally.
While some Cuban-Americans have hoped for decades for a return to a free Cuba, many Mexican-Americans recognize parts of the U.S. as historically Mexican. "We didn't cross the border, the border crossed us," is a favorite refrain. Mexican immigration has fed much of the U.S. population growth in recent decades.
DeeDee Blase, founder of the Arizona-based Tequila Party, an independent political group made up largely of Mexican-Americans, said Cuban-Americans have failed to support policies important to Mexican-Americans, like immigration reform and health care, while wanting Latinos to rally around the trade embargo on Cuba. Blase is Mexican-American.
Guarione Diaz, outgoing president of Miami-based Cuban-American National Council, said resentments are disappearing as more Mexican-Americans have moved to Miami and more non-Cuban politicians are elected to offices with heavy Cuban support. Intermarriage between the groups has bridged the divides along with growing Latino unity around equal access issues, Gonzalez said.
Contreras reported from Albuquerque, N.M. Associated Press writer Paul Weber in San Antonio contributed to this report.
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