Wet Foot-Dry Foot Policy for Cubans Eliminated / 14ymedio, Mario Penton
14ymedio, 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.
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
"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
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 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.
"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.
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.
Source: Wet Foot-Dry Foot Policy for Cubans Eliminated / 14ymedio, Mario
Penton – Translating Cuba -