The US “wet foot, dry foot” immigration policy for Cuba came to an 10 days ago as President Obama changed regulations. It seems odd that this would be one of his acts as he is practically walking out the door.

I always thought this was a horrible policy that encouraged people to make the perilous trip from Cuba to our Gulf Coast. In the past, Cubans who made the trip in a rickety craft and managed to evade Cuban patrols and US Coast Guard and were able to land on our shores were home free.If they were caught in the water, they were sent home.

Cuba raft, result of wet foot dry foot
Cuban Raft found on Matagorda Beach, Texas in 2015

Likewise if they made it to Mexico and traveled across the country to our border, they to were allowed access to the US.
This policy has always encouraged a dangerous method of immigration. It also gave special status to Cubans. An equal case could be made for Venezuelans suffering under socialist economic policy.
Once on US dry land they were allowed to stay. They would then be covered by the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act which grants them permanent residency — a green card — after they have been here for one year. This is the policy that is changing: they no longer get a free pass to stay here for that year and thus get the green card. They are no longer accepted, but treated like any other immigrant arriving illegally.
The tough part of the change is that hundreds of Cuban immigrants are stuck on the travels across Mexico. These are the ones that will suffer. Many have reached the US border and are not allowed to cross. I doubt they would be allowed to return either.

The full story is here, but quote below:

Effective immediately, President Obama said in a statement, “Cuban nationals who attempt to enter the United States illegally will be subject to removal,” treating them “the same way we treat migrants from other countries.” The policy was agreed upon with the Cuban government, which issued a statement calling it “an important step in the advance of bilateral relations” that will guarantee “regular, safe and orderly migration.” The government has long complained about the special status for Cubans, particularly the “wet-foot, dry foot” policy, which it said encouraged illegal travel in unseaworthy vessels, homemade rafts and inner tubes.

As part of the accord announced in both capitals, Cuba will allow any citizen who has been out of the country for up to four years to return. Previously, anyone who had been gone for more than two years was legally said to have “emigrated.” The Cuban statement said efforts to “modernize” immigration policies would continue.

See my other Cuba blog posts here. Interested in travel to Cuba? See Rules for American Travel to Cuba.

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