Thursday, January 12, 2017

Response to President Obama's Statement on Cuban Immigration Policy

Obama's shameful legacy in Cuba 


On December 17, 2014 when President Obama announced his new Cuba policy I wrote that Obama's legacy would be one of normalizing relations with an abnormal regime. Over the course of eight years the marginalization of dissidents would result in the extrajudicial deaths of high profile dissidents such as Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and escalating violence against Cubans unhappy with the dictatorship. The end result, not surprisingly, is another Cuban exodus. We'd seen this before with President Carter and President Clinton, but the Obama Administration has gone further ironically going along with discrimination against Cuban Americans until it became an embarrassment in the media this past year.

They come not seeking the American dream but fleeing the Cuban nightmare
 The Office of the Press Secretary at The White House on January 12, 2017 released a "Statement by the President on Cuban Immigration Policy" that does two concrete things further restricts the Cuban Adjustment Act and ends the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program.

Once again the Obama administration secretly negotiated with the Castro regime and did not consult with Congress in restricting the Cuban Adjustment Act, which is US law. This is the second time that it has happened. From 1966 until 1995 The Cuban Adjustment meant that if a Cuban touched US territorial waters the Coast Guard would pick them up and take them to shore and they would obtain residency. Bill Clinton in 1995 reinterpreted the law to mean that Cubans had to touch land (dry feet) or be deported if caught in the water (wet feet). Now Obama has re-interpreted the law a step further saying that he will deport all Cubans who arrive in the US without a visa. This is a narrower interpretation of the law by the Executive branch without consulting with Congress.

Cubans, despite the rhetoric, do not have a special privilege but rather special circumstances that led to the Cuban Adjustment Act that unfortunately are not historically unique. The 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act  was not the first such measure, the Hungarian Escape Act of 1958 granted Hungarians refugee status predates it by eight years. Nor was it the last, the Indochina Migration and Refugee Act of 1975 granted refugees from the conflict in South East Asia special status.

The Castro regime has long standing demands that both be repealed and this is the latest round of concessions to the dictatorship that will harm Cubans and will create chaos in South Florida because Cubans will continue to flee and go underground to avoid being deported to Castro's Cuba.
"Today, the United States is taking important steps forward to normalize relations with Cuba and to bring greater consistency to our immigration policy. The Department of Homeland Security is ending the so-called "wet-foot/dry foot" policy, which was put in place more than twenty years ago and was designed for a different era.  Effective immediately, Cuban nationals who attempt to enter the United States illegally and do not qualify for humanitarian relief will be subject to removal, consistent with U.S. law and enforcement priorities.  By taking this step, we are treating Cuban migrants the same way we treat migrants from other countries. The Cuban government has agreed to accept the return of Cuban nationals who have been ordered removed, just as it has been accepting the return of migrants interdicted at sea."
 The claim made by the Obama Administration that this is another step to "normalize relations" and that Cuban migrants will be treated just like any other migrant ignores the fact that Cuba is not a normal country but a totalitarian dictatorship. It also ignores the uncomfortable truth that medical doctors are treated like chattel by the dictatorship, sent on foreign missions that pay large sums to the dictatorship and a pittance to doctors.

Cuban doctors trafficked and exploited by the Castro regime
This is why so many of them have fled the dictatorship and sought a new life in the United States. The Obama Administration has also made this a much more difficult prospect to satisfy the demands of the Castro regime but cover up this cruel reality with the same type of propaganda spouted by the Caribbean dictatorship
"Today, the Department of Homeland Security is also ending the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program.  The United States and Cuba are working together to combat diseases that endanger the health and lives of our people. By providing preferential treatment to Cuban medical personnel, the medical parole program contradicts those efforts, and risks harming the Cuban people.  Cuban medical personnel will now be eligible to apply for asylum at U.S. embassies and consulates around the world, consistent with the procedures for all foreign nationals."
Sorry Mr. President but you mistake your new chapter with Cuban dictator Raul Castro with the Cuban people. The sad reality is that you have closed the door on Cubans seeking freedom. This also includes Cuban doctors wanting to free themselves of being trafficked for profit by Havana around the world while they and their families do without. 

This is a shameful legacy. 


  1. Donald Trump will surely welcome the abolition of the wet foot/dry foot policy because last year he called the wet foot/dry foot policy and Cuban Adjustment Act unfair ( and he opposes illegal immigration. And because the Cuban exiles who fled Cuba after Fidel Castro's seizure of power have called for modifying the Cuban Adjustment Act to deny automatic federal benefits to Cuban immigrants with no track record of political persecution, we shouldn't rule out the possibility that Trump will ask Congress to pass laws stipulating that no Cuban immigrant without a track record of political persecution will not receive automatic residency or automatic benefits. After all, recent waves of Cuban immigrants don't consider themselves exiles.

  2. The trouble is two-fold. First that President Obama has done this only in consultation with the Castro dictatorship. Congress was not consulted. It is an outrage that the President is unilaterally undoing laws.

    Second that Cuba is not a normal country. It remains a totalitarian - communist dictatorship that still shoots Cubans in the back for trying to flee the island on rafts.

    Sadly Cuba has not changed and Cubans continue to flee because they want to be free.

  3. Greetings, Mr. Suarez: I agree with everything you have stated. I totally empathize. However, I believe the revision to the original CAA, in the form of Wet Foot/Dry Foot by Clinton, was a huge mistake. Such a policy resulted in the needless deaths of thousands of Cubans seeking asylum. Some of these migrants may be coming to the USA for economic reasons, but such economic reasons stem from the atrocious political climate in Cuba. If Obama has rescinded Wet Foot/Dry Foot, then logically, the law reverts to the original CAA and the Act continues to afford protections to Cuban migrants. Consequently, Obama's denial of entry to Cubans would be a violation of the CAA. As I understand it, and correct me if I am mistaken, under the provisions of the CAA, visas are not required for entry into the United States. Why aren't immigration lawyers challenging Obama for this latest violation of law?

    I do not think Trump will honor and uphold the CAA given his populist and anti-immigrant views. That is the sad reality. For sure, Obama's eight years in office have brought great sorrow and calamity to freedom fighters both on and off the island.

    Nonetheless, after 58 years, I still have hope for a free Cuba. That hope will never die.


    1. Dear Babetter your analysis of CAA and "Wet Foot Dry Foot" is spot on. Furthermore the Obama Administration has further gutted CAA and is creating confusion conflating it with "Wet Foot Dry Foot."

      This was done outside of the law without consulting with Congress in secret negotiations for months with the Castro dictatorship.

      Also shameful is the abandonment of Cuban doctors with the repeal of the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program who are exploited by the dictatorship for the Castro regime's profit.

    2. I am sharing this recently published Op-Ed letter (2/14/17) with regards to "wet foot/dry foot."