So how are Cubans responding to President Barack Obama’s last-second decision to end a decades-long immigration policy providing an easy path to citizenship for Cuban refugees fleeing the island’s oppressive communist regime? Not well.
The soon to be former President Obama announced this week that effective immediately he has ended the 1995 policy granting Cubans who had fled to U.S. soil nearly automatic citizenship.
“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,” Obama announced Thursday. “By taking this step, we are treating Cuban migrants the same way we treat migrants from other countries.”
The president’s announcement is part of his attempt to “normalize” relations with Cuba, or at least appear to have done so from our end. The communist government has given virtually zero concessions for the changes in American policy, which will ultimately prove extremely lucrative to the oppressive regime.
The so-called “wet foot, dry foot” policy provided an easy path to citizenship for Cubans who made it to the U.S. Though the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act still provides Cubans a faster path to naturalization than some immigrants, the end of the two decades-old “wet foot, dry foot” policy makes it more likely that Cuban refugees will be deported.
The Manila Times highlights some of the responses from distraught Cuban refugees:
“Obama has screwed all Cubans,” Yadiel Cruz, a Cuban in Panama bitterly told Agence France-Presse on Thursday upon learning the US president has suddenly made it tougher for migrants like him to get into America.
The 33-year-old summed up what many compatriots were feeling as they digested the news in a Catholic shelter in Panama’s capital, a waypoint on their overland trek to the United States.
But, he declared, “for me, I’m not going back.”
Around him, dozens of other Cubans expressed sadness or anger. …
Reuters also features a few desperate refugees now trapped in the middle after having escaped Cuba, including Jose Enrique Manreza:
“Imagine how I feel, after I spent six days and six nights running through rivers and jungles in the humidity,” said Manreza, at a migrant shelter in the southern Mexican city of Tapachula, where he heard the news, along with 30 other Cubans.
Manreza estimated he had spent about $10,000 on his trip, including a flight to French Guiana, guides through South America and bribes to fend off aggressors who tried to abuse his daughter on the journey.
“I had to give them lots and lots of money, and now this happens,” said Manreza, who ran a soda warehouse in Havana before he left in December. He said he was deciding whether to return to Cuba, broke, or seek asylum in Mexico.
Reuters cites Obama’s deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes, who admitted that since Obama “normalized” relations with Cuba, the numbers of Cuban refugees has spiked, around 40,000 Cubans arriving in 2015 and 54,000 in 2016.
One theory on why Obama has chosen to take this significant action in the last few days of his presidency is that he’s trying to put Donald Trump in a difficult political situation. Trump’s hardline immigration stance, the theory goes, will clash with any attempt to reverse Obama’s decision to treat Cuban refugees like other immigrants.