Congressmen in Washington are up in arms that President Barack Obama is ending the “Wet Foot, Dry Foot” policy that makes it easier for Cubans escaping by boat to gain citizenship upon arrival.
The policy allows Cubans escaping by boat to the United States to become legal citizens if they are able to reach land — while sending back those who are intercepted at sea — and many officials are now claiming it is cruel to make it harder for refugees of an oppressive dictatorship to find freedom.
“With just eight days left in his administration, President Obama has found one more way to frustrate the democratic aspirations of the Cuban people and provide yet another shameful concession to the Castro regime,” Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida said in a press release.
Diaz-Balart and other officials had also been been critical of Obama’s decision to remove the Castro regime from the state sponsor of terror list and granting diplomatic recognition, among other things.
— Michael Deibert (@michaelcdeibert) January 12, 2017
“By taking this step, we are treating Cuban migrants the same way we treat migrants from other countries,” Obama said in a statement released on Thursday.
US Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida suggested Obama’s administration might be too eager the Cuban government’s desires, saying ” (this is) what the Cuban dictatorship wanted and the White House caved to what Castro wants.”
Since 1966, the Cuban Refugee Adjustment Act — also known as the “Wet Foot, Dry Foot” policy — has provided a lifeline to generations of Cubans fleeing the island’s oppressive circumstances.
I have friends from different Hispanic countries struggling to just obtain a residency so it's just fair for it to apply to Cuba now
— Nicole Almaguer (@MonsterrrNicole) January 12, 2017
The Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program involved in the policy also provided a way for doctors forced to work under inhumane conditions for paltry salaries in foreign lands to escape their servitude.
By fighting against this and other policies, Diaz-Balart and other officials argued that the Obama administration has worsened human rights on the island, not improved them.
Documented political arrests reached close to 10,000 in 2016 as renowned activists such as Berta Soler, Danilo Maldonado Machado “El Sexto,” and labor activists including Ivan Carrillo Hernandez suffered brutal arrests just in the past few weeks.
El Sexto reportedly remains in prison today and his American lawyer, Kim Motley, was harassed and interrogated while in Cuba for representing him. Many of the 53 Cubans who were released as part of the Obama-Castro deal have been rearrested.
“By taking this step, we are treating Cuban migrants the same way we treat migrants from other countries,” Obama said in a statement released on Thursday,” US Senator Bob Menendez said.
This is a huge slap in the face to people who are legitimately fleeing for their lives https://t.co/UeOJTt7Ubu
— Mike Ciandella ن (@MikeCiandella) January 12, 2017
“President Obama’s numerous concessions and extension of diplomatic recognition to the murderous Castro regime does not constitute an achievement,”Diaz-Balart said. “To the contrary, his policy has been a succession of betrayals of America’s longstanding commitment to human rights and freedom, and a betrayal of the Cuban people who have suffered under oppression for far too long.
“This last act of diminishing lifelines to Cubans languishing in totalitarianism is one final despicable betrayal of a people who deserve better from an American president.”