The Associated Press reports President Obama terminated a longstanding policy that allows any Cuban who touches U.S. soil to become a legal permanent resident and citizen. The announcement comes after an agreement was reached with Cuba to take back the citizens the U.S. seeks to deport. The repeal is effective immediately.
Under a 1995 amendment to the Cuban Adjustment Act, a Cuban interdicted in the water between the two countries is considered to have “wet feet” and sent back home. A Cuban who reaches U.S. soil can claim “dry feet” and qualify for immigration benefits one year after arriving. No aliens from other countries are given this benefit.
After Obama normalized relations with Cuba, thousands of Cubans headed to the U.S. via Central American landing points in an effort to take advantage of the policy before it was ended. During fiscal year 2016 budget year, over 41,500 Cubans presented themselves at the southern border – a five-year high -- and 7,000 more came by the end of November 2016.
Historically, Cuba has refused to take back criminals the U.S. sought to deport, and denied the safe return of other citizens. As a result, the U.S. has been forced to release hundreds of Cuban criminals to the streets under a 2001 Supreme Court ruling. A U.S. official who spoke with the Associated Press said their position remains unchanged with respect to the safe return of non-deportees, although the country is open to those seeking political asylum due to perceived persecution in the U.S.
Updated: Thu, Jan 26th 2017 @ 5:55pm EST