President Barack Obama’s recent policy change that terminated the so-called “Wet Feet, Dry Feet” policy, which allowed thousands of Cubans to claim asylum in the United States since the days of the Clinton administration, took immediate effect over the weekend. More than one hundred Cubans were reportedly stranded at Miami International Airport on January 13, while an unknown number have already been deported. The policy change ostensibly affected Cubans attempting to enter the country without a visa.
Because of the policy change, when Cubans recently tried to enter the country with a valid tourist visa, who told immigration officials upon entry that they wanted to avail themselves of the Cuban Adjustment Act, they were arrested and subject to deportation. The Cuban Adjustment Act afforded Cubans the opportunity to appeal for asylum and eventual residency and citizenship if they could successfully land on American soil. The leader of the Democracy Movement, Ramón Saúl Sánchez, said “Cubans who enter the country with a tourist visa and tell the authorities that they want to avail themselves of the Cuban Adjustment Act are automatically arrested and subject to repatriation to Cuba unless they apply for political asylum.”
In April of this year, Sánchez was refused residency by the United States in a move that he claimed was political. He said that the majority of Cubans coming to the U.S. on tourist visa do so to visit relatives. Sanchez said that immigration authorities are applying the new rule “very narrowly. “We do not know if they are interviewing and pressuring the elderly,” he said, “because some who have managed to leave say that the authorities are pressuring them by saying ‘if you want to stay, then we have to take you to a detention center’ and the elderly think they’re going to be put me in jail.”
“We are concerned that authorities are interpreting the new law, or the new changes, very narrowly,” said Sanchez in a local WSVN television report. “I know that we are in a transitional period, but therefore, we ask them to show as much latitude as they can, so these people don’t continue to suffer.”
Gillian M. Christensen of the Department of Homeland Security stated that Cubans arriving at Miami International Airport after the implementation of the new policy “will be processed according to their disposition like every other foreign national who is seeking entry into the U.S.”
Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.