On January 12 the Obama Administration gutted the Cuban Adjustment Act, which classified Cuban defectors who made it to American dry land as political refugees, and provided them the opportunity to apply for legal residency.
Since 1995, the “wet foot/dry foot” policy allowed Cuban defectors, who were not intercepted at sea and then returned to Cuba while attempting to flee the Castro regime, to remain in the US. Those who remained for one year were then eligible to apply for legal status.
Now, Cuban migrants will face deportation if they are caught entering the United States. The change, executed by the Department of Homeland Security, is part of the ongoing “normalizing” of relations between the American and Cuban governments, initiated by the Obama Administration in 2015.
Deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said Cuban officials have agreed to repeal a law that denies re-entry to Cuban immigrants who have been gone for four years once Congress repeals The Cuban Adjustment Act.
From the New York Times‘ report:
It was one way in which the United States tried to weaken Fidel Castro’s government, by welcoming tens of thousands of Cubans fleeing repression. In recent years, however, it has become a magnet for economic refugees, enticing many Cubans to make a perilous journey to the United States, where they enjoy a status unlike migrants from any other country.
“The exceptionalism of the ‘wet foot, dry foot’ policy toward Cuba is a relic of the Cold War, and this decision by the administration is really its final effort to normalize an area of interaction between Cuba and the United States, migration, that is clearly in need of normalization,” said Peter Kornbluh, a co-author of “Back Channel to Cuba,” which recounts the secret negotiations between the United States and Cuban governments that forged the policy.
Cuban migrants who believe they will be persecuted if they return to Cuba will still be allowed to apply for political asylum here.
President Obama’s statement reads:
Today, the United States is taking important steps forward to normalize relations with Cuba and to bring greater consistency to our immigration policy. The Department of Homeland Security is ending the so-called “wet-foot/dry foot” policy, which was put in place more than twenty years ago and was designed for a different era. 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. 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.
Today, the Department of Homeland Security is also ending the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program. The United States and Cuba are working together to combat diseases that endanger the health and lives of our people. By providing preferential treatment to Cuban medical personnel, the medical parole program contradicts those efforts, and risks harming the Cuban people. Cuban medical personnel will now be eligible to apply for asylum at U.S. embassies and consulates around the world, consistent with the procedures for all foreign nationals.
The United States, a land of immigrants, has been enriched by the contributions of Cuban-Americans for more than a century. Since I took office, we have put the Cuban-American community at the center of our policies. With this change we will continue to welcome Cubans as we welcome immigrants from other nations, consistent with our laws. During my Administration, we worked to improve the lives of the Cuban people – inside of Cuba – by providing them with greater access to resources, information and connectivity to the wider world. Sustaining that approach is the best way to ensure that Cubans can enjoy prosperity, pursue reforms, and determine their own destiny. As I said in Havana, the future of Cuba should be in the hands of the Cuban people.
Also from the New York Times: “According to the agreement, which was signed on Thursday in Havana, the Cuban government said it would accept 2,746 people who fled in the Mariel boatlift of 1980 back into the country, and consider accepting back others on a case-by-case basis.”
New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez, who was born to Cuban immigrants, released a statement denouncing the Obama Administration’s action, which reads, in part:
To be sure, today’s announcement will only serve to tighten the noose the Castro regime continues to have around the neck of its own people.
Congress was not consulted prior to this abrupt policy announcement with just nine days left in this administration. The Obama administration seeks to pursue engagement with the Castro regime at the cost of ignoring the present state of torture and oppression, and its systematic curtailment of freedom.
The change is a mixed bag for Cubans. The Obama Administration has worked to end the isolation and embargo of Cuba, but denying Cubans their natural rights of movement is a step backward. Cubans should have control over their own lives, but despite the recent death of Fidel Castro, the Castro regime remains an oppressive force in the lives of the country’s citizens. Young Cuban nationals will not have an easy time ridding themselves of their totalitarian state. Being Libertarian has published a previous article regarding the possibility of Cubans to free themselves of their bonds.
This post was written by Dillon Eliassen.
The views expressed here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect our views and opinions.
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