Featured News 2016 What is the ‘Wet-Foot, Dry-Foot’ Policy?

What is the ‘Wet-Foot, Dry-Foot’ Policy?

For most immigrants across the world, if they want to visit, live, or work in the United States, or if they want to become U.S. citizens, they must go through a strict immigration process, which usually involves obtaining lawful permanent resident status for a set number of years before they can naturalize.

With Cuban immigrants however, they receive special treatment that is not afforded to any other group of immigrants or refugees. For example, under what has been coined the "wet-foot, dry-foot policy," if Cuban immigrants make it to U.S. soil, they automatically get the fast track to permanent residency.

The U.S. government established this policy in 1995 as an amendment to the Cuban Adjustment Act (1966) that was passed by Congress while tensions were high during the Cold War between the U.S. and Cuba.

Under the "wet-foot, dry-foot" policy, if a Cuban somehow makes it to U.S. soil, he or she are said to have "dry feet," meaning, they are entitled to lawful permanent resident status and U.S. citizenship.

On the other hand, if a Cuban immigrant is apprehended while they're still in the water, then they have "wet feet," and they will be returned to Cuba. However, there are exceptions for certain Cubans who are apprehended at sea, but can prove that they will be persecuted if they return home.

Why discriminate between wet and dry feet?

This policy makes one wonder why the U.S. government is discriminating between Cubans on boats and rafts and Cubans who land on U.S. soil.

The reason behind the "wet-foot, dry-foot" policy was to prevent a massive influx of Cuban refugees because it happened before with the Mariel boatlift in 1980, where over 120,000 Cuban refugees travelled from Cuba's Mariel Harbor to the United States. For understandable reasons, this influx of Cuban immigrants placed a financial strain on the U.S. government.

Recently, President Obama made efforts to repair our relationship with Cuba. If all goes well, the policy may no longer be relevant and Cubans may not enjoy special treatment.

If you need help with an immigration matter, including one involving Cuba, contact an immigration attorney for legal advice!

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