On Thursday, the Obama Administration terminated the “wet foot, dry foot” policy. This policy granted parole and access to benefits to Cuban migrants who managed to make it onto U.S.. soil.
The decision has been met with both praise and criticism. Florida Senator Marco Rubio has sharply criticized the decision because it could pose a threat to the Cubans who have a legitimate fear of political persecution in Cuba.
Others have praised the decision because it means Cuban immigrants will be treated the same as others. Our system will no longer give preferential treatment to immigrants from any country.
Wet Foot, Dry Foot Policy
Ever since Fidel Castro’s revolution in 1959, Cubans have enjoyed immigration benefits that were not offered to immigrants from other countries. Cubans were offered immediate parole and instant access to safety net benefits provided by the government.
The reason for this preferential treatment was the fact that most Cubans who fled to this country were victims of political persecution. They often risked their lives, floating in the ocean to get to the United States. Many Cubans died in the process.
But staying inside of Cuba was just as dangerous. The Communist Castro regime treated political dissent with brutal force. They were known to confiscate property, imprison political opponents, and even execute its own citizens for speaking against the government.
The “wet foot, dry foot” policy meant that if a Cuban fleeing persecution was able to make it to dry land they would be given benefits. However, if they were captured during the trip, they were returned to Cuba.
What This Means For Cuban Immigrants
The ending of the “wet foot, dry foot” policy does not mean that there will be less Cuban immigrating to the U.S. What it actually means is that they will no longer enjoy preferential treatment. If they come here illegally they will deal with the same issues as undocumented immigrants.
This will mark a significant shift in the Cuban community. While fleeing Cuba has always been risky, they will now have to worry about deportation and the inability to become a U.S. citizen.
There is an area where Cubans will still enjoy better treatment. They will still find it easier to immigrate to the U.S. legally. The U.S. has a policy that grants about 20,000 visas to Cubans who come in through the proper channels. This is a higher number than the amount that is granted to immigrants from other countries. President Obama has left this policy intact.