Senator Chuck Grassley.

Senator Chuck Grassley.

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley says he’s “disgusted” the Obama administration isn’t taking a tougher stance with Cuba, especially when it comes to convicted Cuban criminals living on U.S. soil.

Grassley, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, says the White House should have pushed harder to get Cuba to cooperate with U.S. deportation efforts in exchange for rewarding that country with stronger diplomatic ties.

“There’s 34,000 Cubans that have been here illegally and they have a criminal record,” Grassley says. “It’s our goal with any country to get them back to their country. Some countries will take them, some won’t.” Cuba is among those countries that won’t. Grassley, a Republican, says he opposes the president’s moves to reestablish diplomatic relations with Cuba, at least before the people of that island nation are given political freedom.

“Where I’m disgusted with this administration at this point is, they have an opportunity now in negotiating with Cuba,” Grassley says, “Cuba’s refused to take the aliens that we’re ready to deport.” Grassley has sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry and to the head of Homeland Security criticizing the way negotiations with Cuba have gone. He’s also asked for an exact number of Cuban nationals in the U.S. who have been ordered deported and why.

“These are aliens with a criminal record and that crime was committed in the United States,” Grassley says. “We want to get them out of the country and we have the leverage of helping Cuba now and we aren’t taking advantage of it. It’s a lost opportunity.” Grassley says some Cuban criminals who’ve been ordered removed, but who are allowed to stay in the U.S. because of Cuba’s lack of cooperation, have gone on to commit more violent crimes.