Wet-Foot/Dry-Foot Repealed

From Little Havana and Calle Ocho to landmarks like Versailles Restaurant and Ermita de la Caridad, the Cuban influence in Miami is hard to miss. Cuban immigration has always had a strong impact on Miami’s culture, politics and demographics. There has been a steady trend towards normalizing relations between Cuba. After nearly 54 years, on August 14, 2015, the United States embassy re-opened in Cuba. In late 2016, many major passenger cruise lines began sailing between Miami and Havana, Cuba.

On January 12, 2017, the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) rescinded certain immigration policies unique to Cuban nationals. Notably, DHS eliminated what is known as the “wet-foot/dry-foot” policy. Under this policy, a Cuban interdicted by law enforcement in the water between the United States and Cuba (typically off the coast of Miami) is considered to have “wet feet” and sent back to Cuba. A Cuban who reaches U.S. soil can claim “dry feet” and qualify for immigration benefits one year after arriving. This immigration policy was unique to Cuban nationals. No other foreign nationals were given this benefit. Cubans who believe they will be persecuted if they return home will still be permitted to apply for political asylum when the reach the United States.

Given Miami’s large Cuban population, the repeal of the “wet-foot/dry-foot” policy will undoubtedly impact not only our federal immigration laws, but South Florida. Just what kind of impact it will have is yet to be seen. None the less, the “wet-foot/dry-foot policy” a relic of the Cold War era, is no more.

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