Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Reforms to "Wet Foot, Dry Foot"

It was inevitable that the "wet foot, dry foot" immigration policy would be a major issue in the U.S.-Cuban relationship. Oddly enough, getting rid of it seems to unite restrictionists and progressives. The former want less immigration in general, while the latter decry the preferential treatment.

There are really two separate issues. The first is the original idea of the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966, which is the preferential treatment part. Cuban emigrants just need to stay in the U.S. a short amount of time and they can become permanent residents (it was originally two years, then was reduced to one). There is no cap. The idea was that they were facing imminent persecution. Now we know that it's constantly abused--people are commonly claiming persecution yet going back and forth between the two countries. Even hard liners like Ileana Ros-Lehtinen openly acknowledge those abuses.

The second issue is the 1995 "wet, dry" revision. It famously stipulates that Cubans are only eligible if they make it to U.S. territory. That takes us into the absurd position of determining whether a derelict bridge is "land" (it is not!).

There is no valid reason to maintain the Cuban Adjustment Act at all. People in other Latin American countries face worse repression, and so there is no reason to single out Cubans. The "wet, dry" part is just icing on the cake of an outdated policy. Like other aspects of U.S.-Cuban relations, we need to get ourselves out of the 1960s.


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