WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Ranking Member of the SFRC Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, today re-introduced the Combatting Trafficking of Cuban Doctors Act of 2021, legislation to strengthen accountability measures addressing the Cuban regime’s human trafficking and exploitation of Cuban doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals deployed on foreign medical missions. In addition to requiring new reporting on the forced labor conditions faced by Cuban doctors in countries around the world, the bipartisan legislation re-establishes the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program in order to permit eligible Cuban doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals and their immediate families to come to the United States.
“Cuba’s medical missions, which on the surface appear motivated by humanitarian concern and empathy, are in reality coercive state-sponsored human trafficking schemes that ensnare Cuban medical professionals in indentured servitude,” Chairman Menendez said. “It is unacceptable that the Cuban regime has continued to exploit doctors and nurses for profit, withholding their passports, retaliating against their families, and manipulating them through other forms of pressure and intimidation. Frontline healthcare workers deserve nothing less than our abounding admiration and gratitude, especially as the coronavirus pandemic rages on. I applaud the introduction of this bipartisan legislation as we offer the United States as a safe haven for those Cuban medical professionals seeking refuge from the regime.”
“There is no doubt that the Cuban dictatorship’s so-called ‘medical missions abroad’ are a coercive trap,” Senator Rubio said. “The Castro and Díaz-Canel regime can attempt to disguise these missions as humanitarian efforts, but the reality is they’re state-sponsored human trafficking brigades. Cuban doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals are subjected to deplorable working conditions, confiscation of their legal forms of identification, and significantly reduced compensation. The U.S. has a moral duty to combat this scheme and hold accountable the perpetrators of these abuses.”
Today’s reintroduction of the legislation follows the Biden administration’s decision to file an amicus brief in the case of Ramona Matos Rodriguez, et al., v. Pan American Health Organization, which involves allegations that the Pan American Health Organization facilitated human trafficking. Chairman Menendez spoke yesterday on the Senate Floor about the importance of holding PAHO accountable for its facilitation of a program that subjected more than 10,000 Cuban medical professional to forced labor conditions in Brazil.
Find a copy of the Combatting Trafficking of Cuban Doctors Act of 2021 HERE.