'Wet foot, dry foot' Cuba immigration policy shelved by Obama administration

The "wet foot, dry foot" policy gets its name from a Clinton Administration-era change to immigration rules, which give Cubans who make it to US shores (or get one foot on dry land, so to speak) a chance for American residency after one year in the country.

The policy, which has been in effect for more than 20 years, allows Cubans who reach US soil to stay in the country and pursue residency a year and a day later.

"Effective immediately, Cuban nationals who attempt to enter the United States illegally and do not qualify for humanitarian relief will be subject to removal, consistent with USA law and enforcement priorities", said President Obama in a statement.

With this change we will continue to welcome Cubans as we welcome immigrants from other nations, consistent with our laws.

While not easy, Cubans may seek out alternative methods of entering the United States and add to the undocumented immigrant population that already exists, perhaps with the help of sympathetic family members who are in the US legally.

The policy of "wet foot, dry foot" that President Obama ended late this week was a variation of the special status provided to Cubans fleeing that nation by every president since Dwight D. Eisenhower.

A 2014 announcement that the two countries would seek to normalize relations had already led to a rise in the number of Cubans - anxious about an imminent end to the special immigration status - flocking to the US.

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"This is a logical, responsible, and important step towards further normalizing relations with Cuba", James Williams, president of Engage Cuba, a non-profit group working to end the travel and trade embargo on Cuba said in a statement. More than 46,000 Cubans without visas attempted entry in the 2016 fiscal year, many along the Southern border and twice as many as in FY 2014.

Since 1966, Diaz-Balart wrote, the Cuban Refugee Adjustment Act has "provided a lifeline to generations of Cubans fleeing oppression". He said the dash for the United States had cost about $25,000 for him, his wife and Miami family members who sent money to support them. Obama visited Havana last March. As I said in Havana, the future of Cuba should be in the hands of the Cuban people.

There were no concessions from the Cuban government about how these attempted exiles would fare back in Cuba. "Cuban relations and we just don't know whether the Trump administration will decide to go that way or will let things as they stand right now", he said.

The decision, it said, is "aimed at guaranteeing normal, safe and ordered migration" and ending the acceptance of illegal Cuban emigres to the United States. In particular, he said he wanted Donald Trump to reverse the cancellation of the medical professional program when he becomes president next week. There is little in the current state of U.S. Cuban immigrants who were caught at sea, however, were turned back.

They have since re-opened embassies in their respective capitals and are slowly making it easier for USA companies to do business in Cuba.

The migrant influx led President Bill Clinton to modify the Cuban Adjustment Act in 1995, establishing the "wet foot, dry foot" policy.

"It's been fifty years", he said.

  • Sonia Alvarado