The recent resumption of formal diplomatic relations between the governments of the United States and Cuba after more than 50 years of hostility has given rise to fears in both Cuba and southern Florida that the current rules regarding Cuban immigration to the U.S. will soon be reformed. Specifically, many Cubans worry that the U.S.’s so-called “wet foot, dry foot” policy -a 20 year old amendment to the U.S.’s 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act- will be discontinued. This controversial policy allows illegal Cuban migrants who reach U.S. shores to stay in that country as refugees and apply for green cards and permanent residence after one year; on the other hand, “wet foot, dry foot” sends back to Cuba any migrants that are apprehended while still at sea.
While the Castro regime has long held that the U.S. government’s policy with regard to Cuban immigration -specifically the “wet foot, dry foot” protocol- encourages Cubans to attempt unlawful and hazardous rafting trips to reach the U.S., the policy does enable relatively speedy immigration for refugees from Cuba to the U.S. When compared to the long and arduous immigration process which most other migrants to the U.S. are compelled to weather -thanks in no small measure to widespread anti-immigrant sentiment in parts of the U.S.-, the pathway to permanent American residence for refugees that is provided by the risky “wet foot, dry foot” practice is alluring for many Cubans.
U.S. officials firmly deny that any policy changes regarding Cuban immigration to America are on the horizon. Immigration experts are similarly skeptical; they are quick to point out that even if President Obama wanted to undertake such reforms, any fundamental alterations in that area would need to be green-lit by the U.S. congress -something that seems unlikely given America’s longstanding partisan paralysis. For all intents and purposes, the rumors regarding potential policy changes in the area of Cuba-U.S. immigration seem unfounded.
Even so, domestic opponents of President Obama’s Cuba pivot continue to stoke fears among Florida’s Cuban population that the president’s recent actions will in some way jeopardize both their own ability to remain in the U.S. and the ability of their relatives to one day reach them there. Foremost among these voices is the Cuban-American Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who has been a consistent and highly publicized critic of President Obama’s Cuban policy for years.
“I don’t know of any organized efforts to repeal it [the Cuban Adjustment Act], but I would venture to guess that there will be efforts to repeal it by some,” Rubio recently asserted to the press.
The senator’s claim paralleled a significant spike in attempts by Cubans to raft to America in the wake of last month’s groundbreaking diplomatic developments. Capt. Pat DeQuattro of the U.S. Coast Guard recently reported the apprehension 481 illegal Cuban migrants to the U.S. last month alone -that’s a 117 percent increase in Cuban migration attempts from December 2013. With 96 similar apprehensions so far this month, the exodus shows no signs of subsiding.
Many Cubans are heeding the seemingly disingenuous and politically motivated rhetoric of Rubio and others like him and are hurriedly undertaking the potentially deadly 90 mile raft journey to the U.S. Hopefully, no one loses their life in the process.
Source(s): 1) Roque Planas “Migration From Cuba Surges Amid Rumors Of End To ‘Wet Foot, Dry Foot’ Policy” HuffingtonPost (January 19, 2015): accessed January 20, 2015 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/18/cuba-wet-foot-dry-foot_n_6497480.html
2) Alfonso Chardy and Nora Gamez Torres “Some fear that US-Cuba diplomacy will jeopardize green cards” The Bellingham Herald (January 14, 2015): accessed January 20, 2015 http://www.bellinghamherald.com/2015/01/14/4077368_some-fear-that-us-cuba-diplomacy.html?rh=1