The U.S. Coast Guard has released new statistics which indicate a historic drop in Cuban migration since the decision by former President Barack Obama to end the long-standing “Wet Foot, Dry Foot” policy in January.
Since April 1st of this year, the Coast Guard has intercepted zero migrants attempting to flee Cuba and land on U.S. soil. This is compared to more than 1,000 Cuban migrants from the same time period last year, and 5,263 Cubans total for all of 2016. The dramatic drop in migrants reflects the changing political realities between the U.S. and Cuba, and the benefits that improved relations are bringing.
The policy of “Wet Foot, Dry Foot” referred to a Clinton-era interpretation of the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966. Prior to 1995 any Cuban who reached U.S. territorial waters (any water within 12 miles of the shore) would be eligible to remain in the United States, seek residency, and not be deported back to Cuba. The United States believed this to be a humanitarian issue, as well as a political one, by adopting a policy which encouraged fleeing the Communist regime in Cuba over human rights violations.
The reinterpretation to “Wet Foot, Dry Foot” in 1995 meant that any Cuban still caught in the water, even in standing water up to their knees, would be deported. If they made it to shore, they would get a chance to stay in the United States.
President Obama’s decision to end the policy was part of the normalizing of relations between the U.S. and Cuba that began in 2014. “By taking this step, we are treating Cuban migrants the same way we treat migrants from other countries,” he said in a statement in January.
“The United States, a land of immigrants, has been enriched by the contributions of Cuban-Americans for more than a century,” he continued. “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.”
Many Cuban-Americans in the United States opposed the move, saying it only serves to further legitimize the regime in Cuba.
Image courtesy of NBC News