Cuban-American Attorney Weighs In on US-Cuban Immigration

What’s the back story? What’s Next? What’s assured is this Cuba discussion will surely continue over the next four years.


Many have heard the recent change in immigration policy towards Cubans attempting to enter the United States (i.e., the Wet Foot, Dry Foot Policy).

There have also been discussions about how the change was necessary for various reasons.  Before discussing the reasoning behind the immigration change and the reactions resulting from the action, it is important to delve into what is/was the law.

Some background first

In 1966, the United States passed the Cuban Adjustment Act.

The act was designed to provide Cubans escaping from Cuba to adjust their visa status to become permanent residents and eventually US citizens due to political persecution they were or would encounter at the hands of Fidel Castro.

However, the law required legal status on the part of Cuban citizens, absent those seeking political asylum, though this has been generally presumed due to the actions of Castro’s government.

Following the fall of the Soviet Union

Following the fall of the Soviet Union, Castro’s main source of sustenance, Cuba went into a state of collapse and an influx of Cuban refugees began taking to the waters to arrive in the US in order to escape the decaying country.

However, to avoid a major exodus like during Mariel boat lift, former President Clinton initiated an executive order called the Wet Foot, Dry Foot Policy requiring Cuban citizens to touch land in order to be automatically admitted to the US to receive legal status.

Anyone who failed to touch land or were intercepted at sea would be repatriated to Cuba.

Under Bush Administration

Under Bush Administration, former President Bush implemented a program called the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program to assist physicians sent by Fidel Castro around the world to provide health care services in exchange for supplies and money.

The Castro government pays the physicians a meager salary in the process.

The Obama Administration

Now, following former President Obama’s actions, the policy for Cuban immigrants has reverted back to the language in the Cuban Adjustment Act prior to the Wet Foot, Dry Foot Policy with one exception, political persecution for the purposes of asylum is no longer presumed.

Therefore, Cubans coming to the US seeking permanent residency under the Cuban Adjustment Act must either have a visa or prove political persecution for the purposes of political asylum.  Additionally, the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program, allowing Cuban physicians to apply outside the US was also terminated.

Former President Obama stated the reasoning for the departure from the Policy was his engagement with Cuba rendered the Policy obsolete.

Additionally, his reasoning for abandoning the Cuban Medical Parole Program was how it negatively impacted the treatment of diseases around the world.  Other groups have celebrated the elimination of the Wet Foot, Dry Foot policy as it “levels the playing field” by treating all immigrants equally.

Removal of the Wet Foot, Dry Foot Policy

Still others are content with the removal of the Wet Foot, Dry Foot Policy as many have abused its policy by Cubans gaining residency only to return to Cuba and obtaining benefits contrary to the spirit of the Policy and Cuban Adjustment Act itself.

This position claims those who arrived in the 50’s and 60’s were leaving due to clear political persecution at the hands of the Castro government.  However, many point to how Cubans arriving more recently have come for economic reasons making them no different than many other immigrants arriving to this country.

In the end, as most on both sides of the argument would state a change in the policy was necessary.

Next- How the change would take place.


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