by WorldTribune Staff, January 13, 2017
President Barack Obama on Jan. 12 repealed the “wet foot, dry foot” policy in which any Cuban who reached U.S. soil was allowed to stay while any picked up at sea was returned.
The Cuban government hailed Obama’s parting policy act.
“It was creating serious problems for the security of Cuba, for the security of the United States and for the security of our citizens left vulnerable to human trafficking, migratory fraud and violence as a result of the incentives created by these preferential policies,” said Josefina Vidal, Cuba’s top diplomat for U.S. affairs.
Obama said in a statement that “by taking this step, we are treating Cuban migrants the same way we treat migrants from other countries. The Cuban government has agreed to accept the return of Cuban nationals who have been ordered removed, just as it has been accepting the return of migrants interdicted at sea.”
Obama’s order took effect immediately, leaving some desperate Cubans stranded and bewildered.
Cuban Jose Enrique Manreza, who sold his house and belongings to pursue the American dream, told Reuters he is now stuck in a Mexican border town after Obama abruptly ended the policy that was adopted by President Bill Clinton.
“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.
Cubans en route in Panama said hundreds more were behind them in the treacherous jungles of the Darien.
“There are people with children, pregnant women, elderly people,” said Gabriel Alejandro Marín, part of a group of 50 in Panama City. “We have all sold everything for this.”
Ivan Diaz, 45, a health administrator said the decision had left him in shock.
“It’s taken the oxygen from me,” he said. Diaz left Cuba three months ago with his wife. He said the dash for the United States had cost about $25,000 for him, his wife and Miami family members who sent money to support them.
“I’ve got $10 left in my pocket,” he said. “We are going to carry on. We don’t lose anything by going to the Laredo border. We must be able to do something. Otherwise, let them deport me back to Cuba.”