What The End Of 'Wet-Foot, Dry-Foot' Means For Cubans

President Barack Obama waves as he arrives to deliver a speech at the Gran Teatro in Havana Cuba on March 22. REUTERS  Carlos Barria
What The End Of 'Wet-Foot, Dry-Foot' Means For Cubans

16 January, 2017

The 20-year-old policy allows Cuban migrants who reach U.S. soil to become legal permanent residents after a year.

Within the statement released by President Obama was his assertive stance towards Cuban nationals who enter in the United States undocumented and illegally, and will earn no humanitarian assistance and will be deported from US soil, as the law permits them to.

The policy shift means that any Cuban who attempts to enter the United States illegally and without valid humanitarian or asylum cases can be sent back home, like most other migrants in the same situation.

Over the past ten years, it's been hard to find politicians, be they left-leaning or right-of-center, to defend the US government's "wet foot, dry foot" Cuban immigration policy.

The president also announced the end of the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program, which allowed Cuban doctors and other medical personnel to seek temporary legal status in the U.S. Obama said the program "risks harming the Cuban people" and that such personnel are still eligible to seek asylum at U.S. embassies and consulates overseas.

"While I have acknowledged the need to reform the Cuban Adjustment Act for some time now, the Obama Administration's characterization of this change as part of the ongoing normalization with the Castro regime is absurd", said Senator Rubio in a statement.

A decades-old USA economic embargo, though, remains in place, as does the Cuban Adjustment Act, which lets Cubans become permanent residents a year after legally arriving in the U.S.

"You have quite a large number of Cubans who were already in Mexico ready to cross over, and for one reason or another, now they're stranded in Mexico", he said.

As relations have improved between Washington and Havana in the last two years, the special immigration category seemed incongruous to the Obama administration.

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Panama began humanitarian airlifts in May that sent more than 3,100 stranded Cubans north to Mexico at the USA border.

"The future of Cuba should be in the hands of the Cuban people". It was announced abruptly because advance warning might have inspired thousands more people to take to the seas between the Communist-ruled island and Florida in order to beat a deadline.

"I could go back, but it's not that same".

Over the last two decades, Cubans fleeing the communist-ruled island have been given a unique status because they were viewed by US administrations as having escaped an enemy to reach safety in America.

When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, it left Cuba in economic ruin, prompting tens of thousands of Cubans to take to the sea for the United States on makeshift boats and rafts.

Many Cubans continue traveling to the U.S.by sea in rickety, unsafe boats built using spare parts in Cuba.

At the U.S. Embassy in Havana Friday, Cubans wait outside on a daily basis, sometimes for hours, hoping to get a visa.

Ros-Lehtinen focused most of her criticism on Obama's decision to cut the Cuban Medical Professional Parolee Program, which she said "was done because that's what the Cuban dictatorship wanted and the White House caved to what Castro wants", among other complaints.

"We will travel to the border to see what they tell us... if nothing can be done, deport me to Cuba", declared Diaz.

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