Wet Foot-Dry Foot Policy for Cubans Eliminated / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

A boat in the florida Straits flies US and Cuban flags. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 12 January 2017 – [Note: This is an extended version of an article that appeared earlier today.] The Obama administration ended the “wet foot/dry foot” policy that allowed Cuban citizens to stay in the the United States as long as they touched land in that country.

The Obama administration has also eliminated the Cuban Medical Professional Parole (CMPP) program, which was set up under the presidency of Republican George W. Bush, to host the hundreds of doctors fleeing the island’s government from third countries, where they were serving on “medical missions.”

In an official communication, aired jointly in both countries, the Cuban Government committed to receiving individuals from a list of 2,746 Cubans who were considered inadmissible after the Mariel exodus and others who did not originally appear on the list.

This measure by the United States does away with the entry by land and sea of ​​all Cuban citizens without visas, repealing the “wet foot/dry foot” policy that gave legal status to Cuban migrants who managed to reach US territory.

Cubans awarded permanent residence in the United States (2010-2015. Blue: Number of residence permits. Black: Number of arrivals by land.

From now on, citizens of the island will be treated like any other Latin American migrant.

“And now what do we do?” asks Yuniel Ramos, a Cuban migrant who is in Honduras accompanied by more than forty compatriots heading to the United States.

“We are desperate, in the middle of the jungle, how can Obama bypass Congress and change things without even giving us a period of time to arrive?” he added.

The end of that policy was an old demand from the Cuban government, which called it “criminal” and “responsible for the deaths of thousands of Cubans.”

The “wet foot/dry foot” policy is an executive order, signed by President Bill Clinton in 1995, following the Rafter Crisis of that era, put into effect after negotiations with the Government of the Island.

“The Government of Cuba agrees to begin accepting the return of Cuban nationals with return orders,” read the press release issued as part of the exchange.

The end of that policy was an old demand from the Cuban government, which called it “criminal” and “responsible for the deaths of thousands of Cubans.”

The presidential adviser who made the announcement in the United States also suggested that the measure is consistent with the strategy proposed by the Administration to promote change in Cuba.

Between 2006 and 2015, more than 8,000 health professionals have arrived in the United States through the Medical Parole Program, according to figures from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). In 2015 alone, 1,663 Cuban health professionals were welcomed. The elimination of the CCMP program represents an important triumph for the Cuban government, which earns great profits from the work of its doctors abroad, who are paid only a small portion of the money paid to the Cuban government by foreign governments in exchange for their services.

President-elect Donald Trump threatened to end Obama’s reestablishment of diplomatic relations unless the Cuban government signed a “better deal” with him.

On December 17, 2014 both countries announced the reestablishment of diplomatic relations after 50 years, generating a wave of repulsion among the historic exile in Miami.

“Castro uses refugees as pawns to obtain more concessions from Washington, so there is no reason to end the Cuban medical program, which is a reckless concession to a regime that sends its doctors to foreign nations in a modern-day servitude,” said Florida Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

“And now what do we do?” asks Yuniel Ramos, a Cuban migrant who is in Honduras accompanied by more than forty compatriots heading to the United States.

“The revocation of the Professional Parole Program for Cuban Doctors was done because that is what the Cuban dictatorship wanted and the White House gave in to what Castro wants, instead of defending the democratic values ​​of the United States,” she added.

According to Alexander Jiménez, a Cuban living in Ecuador, the news left him in shock.

“I had everything ready to go to the United States with my wife, I have a lot of family members on the road, they are in the jungle, we are desperate because we cannot communicate with them and now they cannot continue on their way,” he said.

Dariel Gonzalez, a Cuban health specialist who came to the United States a year ago through the CMPP program, said he had “run out of words.”

“It’s a low blow that Obama is giving to all health professionals who want to escape the slavery to which they are subjected by the Cuban government. This leaves us totally defenseless,”he said.

On the same Thursday that the announcement occurred in Havana and Washington, meetings were held between delegations of both countries to discuss the trafficking of people and the claims of confiscated goods.

Both countries stated, however, that the United States will continue granting 20,000 “exceptional” visas to Cubans on the island to promote safe migration between countries.. The family reunification program will also be maintained.

“It is important that Cuba has a population of young people who become agents of change,” said White House adviser Ben Rhodes.

Cuban exodus by sea to the eee

The White House has made clear that it is aware that the reasons for emigrating are more economic than political.

Cubans who show up at the border will be treated like any other immigrant. They will have the opportunity to explain their motives if they are afraid to return home, according to Ben Rhodes.

According to the announcement, Cuba will change its own immigration policy and will allow Cubans to remain outside the country for a term of up to four years before they lose their right to reside in the country. Until today, Cubans who remained outside the country for more than two years forfeited their right to live in their native country.

Note from the Editor: Contributing to this report were reporters from El Nuevo Herald: Nora Gámez and Abel Fernandez.