Thursday, January 12, 2017

US Ends Cuban Wet Foot, Dry Foot Immigration Policy

For the last two decades, the United States has maintained a special immigration policy that applied only to Cubans. Cubans who were intercepted by U.S. officials in the waters between the United States and Cuba (those with wet feet) would be returned to Cuba. Cubans who made it to U.S. soil (those with dry feet) would be able to apply for permanent residency in the United States after one year, without meeting the usual requirements for a family or employer sponsor or  for asylum.

The Cuban government did not like the policy because they believed it encouraged Cubans to leave Cuba and make the dangerous journey across the sea to the United States.  Other critics maintained that the policy was discriminatory. Other foreigners with equally valid claims for humanitarian relief, such as Haitians, were not given the same privileges.

Many Cubans anticipated this change in policy after the U.S. and Cuba normalized relations. As a result, the numbers of Cubans arriving in the United States in the last two years has skyrocketed (NBC report).

Today, U.S. President Obama announced the end of this controversial policy.  Cuban migrants will now be treated like other foreign nationals seeking to immigrate to the United States.  In exchange, Cuba has agreed to accept the return of Cubans who have been ordered removed by the United States.


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