THE SANTA CLARA
February 2, 2017
While many mourned the last few days of Obama’s presidency, the Obama administration caught many by surprise as they got rid of the “wet foot, dry foot” policy just days before Trump’s inauguration.
For decades, through this policy, Cubans that arrive on American soil would be able to remain legally. However, if they were caught at sea while attempting to come to America, they would be sent back to Cuba. This policy was a result of Fidel Castro’s ascension in 1959 as Cuban immigrants were considered to be fleeing political persecution and therefore were granted access to stay in the U.S. In 1966, the Cuban Adjustment Act made this policy law.
While I share the sentiments of many who miss Barack Obama as our president, I recognize that his administration did not create the comprehensive immigration reform that we desperately need. Getting rid of the wet foot, dry foot policy is not a solution to the issues with immigration in this country, but rather a testament to greater problem that exists.
Although this policy gave Cuban immigrants an advantage, traveling under such circumstances was still extremely dangerous. When traveling with a family or group there is a risk that some individuals will make it safely on land while others are apprehended at sea and sent back to Cuba with no ability to reunite.
Back in 1999, a situation such as this caused young Elian Gonzalez to get stuck in a custody battle. While attempting to travel to America, his mother drowned on the journey. His father, still in Cuba, fought for his return while his family in Miami attempted to gain custody so he could stay with them. Ultimately, he was sent back to Cuba but the decision process was long and complicated. Not only did a young boy lose his mother, but his fate was decided by a country that was never his home. He was reunited with his father, but due to Cuba’s relations with the U.S. he was permanently separated from his family in Miami.
Recently, many Cubans have traveled through Latin America, eventually crossing through the Mexico-United States border in order to avoid being caught on water. This has put them at further risk as they navigate through dangerous circumstances as undocumented immigrants in various countries. Many of these countries have issues of their own, putting Cuban immigrants at risk of violence or even death. As undocumented immigrants, they also run the risk of getting deported from these countries and having to begin their journey to the U.S. all over again.
Not only did the wet foot, dry foot policy result in risky behavior, but it gave Cubans preferential treatment because of the negative relationship between Cuba and the United States. While refugees from Haiti, Central America and other regions are equally in dire, if not worse, situations than Cubans, they were not given the opportunity of legal residency in the U.S.
As a result, many Cuban Americans, after gaining citizenship in the U.S., have voted against more comprehensive immigration reform. Due to their privileged status as wet foot, dry foot beneficiaries, many do not share the same views and struggles as other Latinx immigrants.
Rather than vote on policies that would award other immigrants the same opportunities they received, they largely voted for policies that only perpetuate the issues regarding immigration reform.
Cuban-Americans are largely Republican and have voted for tighter border patrol among other things.
In Florida, a state with a high concentration of Cuban-Americans, more than half voted for Trump in the past presidential election. He based a large part of his campaign on the promise of cracking down on immigration and building a wall at the Mexico border.
Ending this policy also seems to be the next logical step in normalizing relations with Cuba.
The Cuban government has agreed to take back more than 36,000 Cubans in the United States who have current deportation orders.
Previously, this was not the case as Cuba would not allow these individuals to return.
It seems as though the Obama administration has successfully gotten rid of an outdated policy, yet this does not equate a solution.
Under Raul Castro’s regime, many Cubans continue to be oppressed and now their options of leaving Cuba are severely limited, if not almost non-existent.
Although I understand the logic behind ending the wet foot, dry foot policy, I do not believe the next step should be to forget about Cuban refugees.
Immigration is a part of our history in this country. With the exception of Native Americans, everyone living in the United States lives here due to immigration.
Closed borders are not a solution. It is time for policy makers and politicians to create true comprehensive immigration reform.
There are people dying in their countries everyday and the U.S. cannot turn a blind eye to this tragedy, especially when American involvement in other countries is at the root of many of these issues.
In light of the recent executive orders, banning Syrian refugees and immigrants from primarily Muslim countries and planning to build a wall at the Mexico-U.S. border, it is clear what President Trump’s stance on immigration is.
Progress will not come easily, especially given our current president. There is not one simple solution to immigration, but we as a country must realize that Trump’s course of action is not feasible nor is it humane.
Turning our backs on immigrants, many of which are fleeing dangerous countries, will not ‘make America great again.’ It will only make worse.
Veronica Marquez is a sophomore communication and ethnic studies major.
Articles in the Opinion section represent the views of the individual authors only and not the views of The Santa Clara or Santa Clara University.