More Cubans are coming to Florida in their golden years to retire, able to tap U.S. government assistance even though they never lived or worked here.
The number of Cubans arriving over the age of 60 grew fivefold since 2010, according to state refugee data. At least 185 made the crossing in their 80s or 90s.
Unlike most other immigrants, Cubans qualify immediately for food stamps and Medicaid. If they are over 65 with little or no income, they also can collect a monthly check of up to $733 in Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
Cubans’ special status has enabled an increasing number of elderly to retire to the U.S. with taxpayer support. The number of Cubans immigrating after age 60 and eligible for refugee assistance in Florida has increased fivefold since 2010.
“They’re getting cheap apartments, food stamps,” said Cuban-born attorney Pedro Fuentes-Cid of Tampa. “They tell their friends in Cuba, and they come over.”
The United States makes it possible under a humanitarian policy of treating Cubans who arrive as refugees. Elderly immigrants interviewed by the Sun Sentinel said they came primarily to be with family, met the aid qualifications and are grateful for the help.