Whether you were for or against opening the communications lines between Cuba and America, you likely had an opinion. After shutting Cuba off from the entire North American continent for decades, the Obama Administration undid all the sanctions and let Cuba back in to be players on the world stage. Fidel Castro was a brutal dictator who massacred thousands of people who didn’t agree with his revolutionary ideas, but Obama believed that it was time to let bygones be bygones.
Even if people didn’t agree with the measure to open the gates, any humanitarian had high hopes that the Cuban people would benefit from restoring relations with the US. With so many dying on the high seas trying to migrate away from Cuba, there was potential that the Cuban people might be able to stay put and still live a decent life, instead of continually trying to seek refuge from persecution — or worse yet, risking their lives to live somewhere without Castro’s cruelty.
Obama’s final-hour decision to repeal the “Wet Foot/Dry Foot” executive order hasn’t in any way deterred Cubans from making a dangerous and treacherous trek across the high seas — one that many do not survive. Since the repeal of the executive order, authorities have apprehended over 65 Cuban natives in the ocean who are breaking the law by trying to come to America. When President Obama made the announcement that the Cuban people could no longer be granted political asylum in the US as of January 12, 2017, it didn’t do anything to stop people from risking their lives to leave Cuba and come to American soil.
The accident on the high seas laws and the “Wet Foot/Dry Foot” policy stated that any person who fled Cuba and was able to enter into the US would be allowed to stay a year or more and seek refuge. It’s a preferential treatment order that gives Cubans escaping their native land, special allowances that other immigrants aren’t afforded. It isn’t that Cubans who come to America and are deported can’t appeal their deportation and be granted asylum if they can prove that they are at risk if they return home; it just means that they won’t be granted immediate asylum solely for the reason of being from Cuba anymore.
The Obama Administration insists that allowing the executive order to stand was harming the Cuban people by enticing them to make dangerous attempts to enter American soil via the high seas. Obama also maintained that one of the reasons they granted immediate asylum was due to poor economic conditions; since he opened trade back up, the poverty should improve and they will no longer need to flee Cuba.
The problem is that the number of people leaving Cuba to come to the US has increased drastically from 2014 to 2017 due to the repeal of the sanctions placed on Cuba. The “normalization” policy that is part of Obama’s legacy was supposed to trickle down to the pockets of the Cuban people, but so far it has apparently done nothing but make more Cubans want to flee. With Fidel’s brother Raul at the helm, things have not improved by opening communication — they have only gotten worse.
The Coast Guard’s statistics show that there has been a 117% increase in the number of Cuban nationals caught at sea. When they are found, they are now carrying bottles of bleach — knowing that death is not the worst thing they would face if they return. They would rather die at sea than ever go back to Raul’s reign of terror.
In trying to explain the repeal of “wet foot/dry foot,” the Associated Press reported that violence amongst Cuban refugees is increasing substantially. What they failed to mention is that most of the violence they see is people taking their own lives to avoid going back to where they came from.
This is truly a dichotomy: the election of 2016 was based so much on immigration and the Obama Administration wanting to save refugees from lands filled with populations that hate America. Yet he repealed a measure to allow Cuban people, who we know are being persecuted by the Castro government, to be cut off.
The promise of a new Cuba was nothing short of a scam, not only for the American audience but so too for Cubans who would rather die than live without the promise of a future and under the rule of a brutal dictator.