How You Gonna Keep them Down on the Farm?

A reader sent me this interesting story about immigration within Cuba:

"I was caught because I was an illegal," explained a bicycle taxi driver as he gripped the rusted blue handle-bars of his vehicle in Havana's Central Park. "And because I'd been here several times before, I was deported back."

But the driver working his trade in the capital city did not arrive in Cuba from another country. Instead he is among the thousands who have come from rural provinces in search of work and a place to live - but who have been deported back because of "Decree 217."

The 1997 law restricts rural migration to Havana, making this taxi driver an illegal resident in his own capital city.

"If you're illegal you can't be here in Havana," said the driver, originally from Cuba's eastern Holguin province. "You don't have an address here in Havana."...

Economic conditions were generally worse at the eastern end of the island, according to Cuba analyst Edward Gonzalez, a professor emeritus at the University of California Los Angeles.

"[The eastern region] has always been the less affluent, impoverished part of the island," he said, "heavily dependent upon agriculture, less on tourism, and also happens to be more black and mulatto."

The effort to keep migrants out and prevent overcrowding in Havana may have resulted in police discrimination against darker-skinned Cubans presumed more likely to be illegal, Gonzalez said.


  1. dave smith:

    Awesome!! I've been getting Emails about how great North Korea's, Cuba, and Mexico's immigration policies are, so we should do this here. All ya'yall folks from the other 49 states stay the hell outta Texas, ya hear!

  2. Justin:

    I saw similar practices in Peru a couple years ago. I don't know the details as my guide didn't like to discuss domestic politics, but citizens had to have internal passports, and migration between different regions was restricted. The practiced was enforced with random road blocks and police stops. At a check point outside the airport in Juliaca I was able to see the screen of the laptop the security police (they seemed to have half a dozen different types of police) was using to double check identity cards. She had a plain text document with tons (thousands?) of names and would "ctrl-f" search for the names of all the citizens in the car. If you had a foreign passport they wouldn't bother you at all, to the point that sometimes they wouldn't even open it to see if it was actually yours.

  3. Esteban:

    The roadblocks that you refer to in Peru are not a control on internal migration necessarily, they're just are way of being totalitarian in South America... My guess would be that the police didn't bother you because they didn't even know what to do with a foreign passport, many times they're just too lazy... Hell, you can see plenty of internal migration in Peru, noting the truly massive "Pueblos jovenes" on the periphery of the city, full of migrants from all over the country.

  4. ADiff:

    Esteban, and perhaps they are ("a control on internal migration") but it's just their 'border control' is even less effective than ours.

  5. astonerii:

    As bad as it seems, it is probably best for Havana to not allow every one in. Here is a prime example how the difference in wealth causes an unsustainable migration that damages both side of the issue. Havana can only handle so many people before it deteriorates and the countryside is already in terrible shape, but with a need for workers cannot lose the people to the city. Of Course, a functioning government that was beneficial to the economy of the country would probably fix the entire mess in a short period of a few years, but it will not change.

  6. mesaeconoguy:

    Down on the Farm?

    Down on the farm

  7. Craig:

    China does the same thing. Many people want to move from the poor inland rural areas to the rich cities, but cannot.

  8. tehag:

    IIRC, every Communist country has internal passports, internal immigration, and internal deportation. It's part of what makes Socialism, Socialism: the government's need for total control.

  9. GaryP:

    Where is the outrage in the US press about people not being able to move about in their own country to seek better opportunities?
    It doesn't exist because it would be inconvenient to Dear Leader. Same as outrage over Sudan (where he supports genocidal regime), outrage over attempts to bribe candidates to drop out of Senate races (a felony), outrage of handling of oil spill, etc., etc., etc.
    A free press was always messy, but a tame, Pravda-type of press is pathetic. Journalists, have you no shame?

  10. caseyboy:

    GaryP - you make a great point. The main stream media is letting the country down by not doing good investigative journalism, unless the target holds an opposing political view. I am still blown away by the fact that someone isn't investigating the OMB regarding its initial budget projections on Obamacare. They scored the bill at $X dollars so that Senators and Congressmen had cover for their "Yes" votes. Then a few months later, guess what, it is going to cost $115 billion more then planned. How does something like that happen? Major legislation, passed on a totally non-partisan basis that had substantial flaws in the budget methodology. When the press lets something like that slide you know they'll overlook almost anything.