The sudden end of the “wet foot, dry foot” policy, which allowed hundreds of thousands of Cubans to invade America, is the result of months of negotiations between the Cuban and U.S. governments aimed at normalizing relations between the two nations.
The Cuban government has officially welcomed the end of the policy, introduced by President Bill Clinton in 1995. This policy’s premise was that if any Cuban managed to set foot on U.S. soil, they qualified for residency.
The policy of welcoming so-called refugees from Cuba dates back to the Cold War, when the American government was convinced that anyone wanting to leave Cuba was an “anti-Communist.”
In reality, Cuba’s government was more often than not emptying its jails into America, sending over the worst sort of criminals and gangsters who, after being welcomed as “refugees,” quickly turned Miami in particular into a Third World crime hot spot.
Nonetheless, the Cuban government has now welcomed the end of the policy.
“It was creating serious problems for the security of Cuba, for the security of the United States and for the security of our citizens left vulnerable to human trafficking, migratory fraud and violence as a result of the incentives created by these preferential policies,” Josefina Vidal, Cuba’s top diplomat for U.S. affairs, was quoted by Reuters as saying.
The announcement has its origins in the December 17, 2014 announcement that the U.S. and Cuba would re-establish diplomatic relations and start discussions on ending the special immigration status.
After that announcement, at least 100,000 Cubans left for the United States, many moving on a land route through Central America and Mexico, in order to qualify for residence in the U.S.
The negotiations have now reached their logical conclusion, and the announcement by President Barack Obama is merely the inevitable consequence of the two years of negotiations.
“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 U.S. law and enforcement priorities,” Obama said in a statement from the White House.
“By taking this step, we are treating Cuban migrants the same way we treat migrants from other countries. The Cuban government has agreed to accept the return of Cuban nationals who have been ordered removed, just as it has been accepting the return of migrants interdicted at sea.”
The Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program, started by President George W. Bush in 2006, is also being rescinded. The measure allowed Cuban doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals to seek parole in the U.S. while on assignments abroad.
Under the terms of the agreement, Cuba has agreed to take back those turned away from the U.S., if the time between their departure from Cuba and the start of deportation hearings in the U.S. is four years or less.
This timeframe is required under a Cuban law enacted after Congress passed the Cuban Adjustment Act, which lets Cubans become permanent residents a year after legally arriving in the U.S. Citizens from all other countries must wait at least five and a half years before qualifying for citizenship.
There are however, moves afoot to repeal the Cuban Adjustment Act.
People already in the United States and in the pipeline under both “wet foot, dry foot” and the medical parole program will be able to continue the process toward getting legal status.