The elimination of the so-called “dry feet / wet feet” policy, which guaranteed Cubans who managed to reach US soil to stay, brought in its first year, which is on Friday, a significant decrease in the number of immigrants arrived from Cuba.
On January 12, 2017, eight days before the end of his term, the then president, Barack Obama, who began a process of opening up to Cuba that began in 2014 and is under way by decision of the current president, Donald Trump, ended with a policy that opposed the Cuban authorities.
“Dry feet / wet feet” was for years the incentive for thousands of Cubans to throw themselves into the sea in fragile boats or simply something that floated in the hope of crossing the Florida Strait and touching land without having been previously stopped.
In this year since Obama’s decision, the media of Florida have practically disappeared the usual news of “rafters” arrived in the Keys or Miami itself, and with them, the photos or videos of groups of people tired and with faces sad to have been captured in the sea or other euphoric celebrating on the beach with bathers and curious.
According to figures from the Department of State, in fiscal year 2017, which ended last October, arrivals of “rafters” who tried to make landfall in the United States were reduced by 71%.
The reduction was 64% in the case of Cubans arriving at land border posts, which also could benefit from this policy and that increased in recent years, after Cuba relaxed the restrictions to leave the country legally.
Those Cubans traveled to countries where they were not required to have a visa to start from there.
Of the 41,523 Cubans who arrived during the fiscal year 2016 to the United States. Through the four border crossings with Mexico it went to 15,410 during the fiscal year 2017, according to the Customs and Border Protection Office (CBP).
Ramón Saúl Sánchez, leader of the Democracy Movement, one of the exile groups in Miami, told Efe today that the change has been “drastic” and it is noticeable that before the families of people who had thrown into the sea from Cuba contacted him to to know if they had managed to enter the United States.
Now they are even afraid to tell him because they know that their loved ones will be repatriated to Cuba, regardless of whether or not they reach land, says Sanchez.
According to the Coast Guard, during the fiscal year 2017, between October 1, 2016 and September 30, 1,934 Cubans were intercepted who tried to enter the country through the Straits of Florida by sea.
A great contrast with the 7,411 intercepted during the fiscal year 2016 and the 4,473 of 2015, periods in which the arrival of immigrants from the island to this country skyrocketed.
That avalanche was due precisely to fears of possible changes in US immigration policy. towards Cuba as the approaches undertaken by Obama and his Cuban counterpart, Raúl Castro, progressed since December 2014.
Sanchez, however, assured that Cubans continue to leave the island, but they do so for other countries, and that those who still opt for the United States “arrive clandestinely like any other undocumented.”
The end of “dry feet / wet feet” has also seen a major setback in applications for social services from the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF).
It is expected that this fall will last given that Trump, although he has reversed Obama’s policies, has said he does not intend to reestablish “dry feet / wet feet”.
However, Cuban immigrants who legally enter the country still enjoy the residence benefits offered by the Cuban Adjustment Act (CCA), of 1966, since the only way to repeal or modify it is through the Congress.
In the same way, the Cuban Family Reunification Program continues, which allows relatives of US citizens to enter the country while waiting for their permanent residence.
Orlando Gutiérrez, of the Cuban Democratic Directorate, another exile organization, affirms in Efe that for them the important thing has never been the migratory facilities of the Cubans in the United States, but to achieve “a real change in Cuba so that the exit of Cubans in the country “.