In what was a surprise to many people across the U.S., President Obama announced before leaving office that the nation would end its “Wet Foot, Dry Foot” policy towards Cuban migrants. This means that the U.S. will no longer automatically grant residency to Cuban migrants if they arrive in the country without visas.
During his announcement, Obama explained that the policy was “designed in a different era.” He added that taking this crucial step means that the U.S. will treat Cuban migrants the same way it treats migrants from any other nation in the world.
The Cuban government has agreed to take in the Cuban citizens who have been ordered to leave the U.S. in the same way it has been taking in its citizens intercepted while attempting to migrate by sea.
The decision has disheartened many Cuban migrants who have reached U.S. soil. The average adult takes 4,000 to 6,000 steps in the course of a day, but some migrants have taken many more difficult steps in a day to reach America.
Cuban officials have opposed the “wet foot, dry foot” policy since its inception, as it encouraged citizens to put their lives at risk crossing the Florida straits illegally in any piece of junk that would float long enough to get them to dry land.
The abrupt end to this policy comes at a time when Cuban immigration to the U.S. is surging. According to the latest U.S. Customs and Border Protection data, the recent uptick in Cuban immigration began in 2014 when President Obama announced that the U.S. would be renewing ties with the country.
From October to December 2016, the U.S. Coast Guard apprehended 5,263 Cubans attempting to immigrate illegally by sea. In 2015, only 3,505 Cuban citizens were apprehended in this manner.
Today, there are approximately two million citizens of Cuban descent living in the United States. In order to enact the new policy, the Cuban government has agreed to accept its citizens if the U.S. begins deportation in fewer than four years since a particular person left the country.
“It’s a move that brings our Cuba policy into the modern era while allowing the United States to continue its generous approach to those individuals and refugees with a legitimate claim for asylum,” said Senator Jeff Flake.