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Cuban rafters being repatriated by the United States Coast Guard. (EFE)

14ymedio biggerEFE, via 14ymedio, 12 January 2018 — Cuba has recognized the advance that was made for immigration connections with the U.S. with the repeal, a year ago, of the “wet foot/dry foot” policy, which offered preferential treatment to Cuban citizens, but insisted that “normalization” would not take place while the Cuban Adjustment Act continues in effect.

The end of “wet foot/dry foot” was “one of the most transcendental steps” in the new stage that both countries are going through after the official reestablishment of relations after more than a half-century of staunch hostility, according to an article published this Friday in the state newspaper Granma in a supplement dedicated to the anniversary of the development.

The official organ of the governing Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) recognized that the end of “wet foot/dry foot” policy has reduced “almost to zero” the “illegal exits by makeshift means.”

Introduced in 1995, this policy was the result of an agreement between the administration of U.S. ex-President Bill Clinton with Havana, and the revision of the Cuban Adjustment Act, in effect since 1966, which authorizes Cubans to receive permanent residence after one year of their stay in the U.S.

“Wet foot/dry foot” guaranteed refuge to all Cubans who managed to step foot on the territory of the U.S., either in a regular or irregular way (“dry foot”), but committed the U.S. to send back those detained at sea (“wet foot”).

This was, for years, an incentive for thousands of Cubans to launch themselves into the sea on fragile boats with the hope of crossing the Straits of Florida and touching land.

An article in Granma about the “convulsive history” of migration between the two nations, separated by 90 miles of sea, recalls that the Cuban State considers this policy as “a stimulus for irregular emigration, the trafficking of migrants and irregular entrances to the U.S. from Third World countries.”

“Upon admitting them (Cubans) automatically on their territory, [the U.S.] gave them preferential and unique treatment that citizens from other countries don’t receive, so that it was also inciting illegal exits,” said an official communication of the Cuban Government released on January 12, 2017 and cited this Friday by the newspaper.

Its implementation “caused an immigration crisis, the hijacking of boats and planes and the commission of crimes, like human trafficking, slavery, immigration fraud and violence, with a growing destabilizing extraterritorial impact on other countries of the region used as transit points.”

It also mentioned, as an advance in bilateral immigration relations, the end to the program of Parole for Cuban Doctors, which incentivized the abandonment of medical missions in third countries, principally in Latin America.

In spite of this, for the Island, “it is impossible to think about the normalization of immigration relations between the two countries without the North American Congress putting an end” to the Cuban Law of Adjustment.

Together with the end of the U.S. embargo, or “blockade,” the repeal of this law is one of the principal demands of the Cuban Government for normalizing all its relations with its neighbor to the north.

The article also mentions the present tension in bilateral relations owing to the shift in policies of President Donald Trump’s administration, that try to reverse the advances of the “thaw” accomplished by his predecessor, Barack Obama, and the Cuban leader Raúl Castro.

Faced with this position, Cuba has expressed its desire to continue communication and has affirmed that “the solution is up to the U.S.”

More than 896,000 Cubans have come legally to the U.S., of a total of 2.6 million who have left the Island since the immigration reforms  were put into effect in Cuba five years ago, abolishing the requirement for an exit permit.

Since January 1, Cuba has eliminated the residence requirement for children of Cubans born in the Exterior to receive citizenship, eliminated the requirement for a passport stamp from a Cuban consulate abroad for Cuban citizens to re-enter their country and authorized the entrance via yachts for Cubans who have emigrated, although this restriction is still in effect for those who live on the Island.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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