September 21, 2020

Menendez, Rubio Unveil New Effort to Combat Trafficking of Cuban Doctors

Bipartisan legislation strengthens accountability for the Cuban regime’s human trafficking schemes and supports Cuban medical professionals serving overseas

WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, today introduced the Combating Trafficking of Cuban Doctors Act. The new legislation seeks to strengthen accountability for the Cuban regime’s documented human trafficking and exploitation of Cuban doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals through overseas medical missions. The legislation reaffirms the U.S. commitment to defending democratic values and human rights in Cuba, and re-establishes the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program in order to allow eligible Cuban medical professionals, and their immediate family, to come to the United States.

“Cuba’s medical missions abroad are not humanitarian, but in fact a calculated, coercive money-making scheme by a regime relying on indentured servitude to fill its coffers,” said Ranking Member Menendez. “The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us all of the selfless sacrifices and the global need for frontline workers, particularly doctors and nurses. But we all must recognize that garnishing the wages of Cuban medical professionals, withholding their passports, retaliating against their family members, and subjecting them to other forms of coercion represents nothing less than state-sponsored human trafficking. We are introducing this legislation out of a bipartisan commitment to hold the Cuban regime accountable for these abuses and offer protection to its victims here in the United States.” 

“I’m proud to join Senator Menendez in introducing this important bill, which highlights how these so-called missions violate the human rights of Cuban medical professionals and also re-establishes the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program suspended by the Obama Administration,” said Senator Rubio. “Through the diplomatic scam of foreign ‘medical missions’, the Cuban regime has perfected the art of state-sponsored human exploitation while illegally enriching themselves. The U.S. must stand in support of the Cuban medical professionals who are subjected to deplorable working conditions, confiscation of their legal forms of identification, and significantly reduced compensation.”

A copy of the Combating Trafficking of Cuban Doctors Act of 2020 can be found HERE.  Key elements of the legislation include: 

  • Requires a new State Department annual report documenting conditions in each country where Cuba has deployed foreign medical missions, including a determination as to whether such conditions qualify as severe forms of trafficking in persons per the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000.

  • Re-establishes the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program that ended in January 2017, in order to allow eligible Cuban medical professionals, and their immediate family, to come to the United States. 
  • Expresses the sense of Congress that Cuban medical professionals are subjected to state-sponsored human trafficking and calls for Cuban medical personnel to be fully compensated for their work.

  • Recognizes evidence that the Cuban regime’s deployment of Cuban doctors during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as through the Mais Médicos program in Brazil between 2013 and 2018, constitute human trafficking, and documents concerns by the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery and the UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons.

  • Requires the Departments of State and Health and Human Services to implement a balanced approach to address the Pan American Health Organization’s role in the Mais Médicos program—mandating transparency and accountability, preventing future support for Cuban medical missions, and ensuring PAHO has necessary funding to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and other health needs in the region.

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