The wet foot dry foot policy has traditionally been used as a doctrine to permit the return of people to Cuba and Haiti who do not actually touch U.S. soil. It was not a positive policy, but rather one that was an affront to international law because it prohibited bona fide refugees for seeking asylum in the U.S. if they failed to physically touch U.S. soil.
“The elimination of the policy therefore may, or may not, have any effect on current practice. If it suggests that a person out in the coastal waters of the U.S. may claim asylum then it represents a change in policy consistent with international law. If it means that people who land in the U.S. illegally will, nevertheless, be paroled into the country, then the status quo will continue and Cubans who enter illegally will still benefit from the Cuban Adjustment Act. If it means that a Cuban national will be placed in removal proceedings unless he or she entered the U.S. with a parole from outside the U.S. or entered with a visa, then it would represent a significant departure from current law because only Cubans who lawfully enter will be permitted to get the benefit of the Cuban Adjustment Act.
“It appears that DHS is withdrawing its prohibition against the use of summary removal proceedings at land borders regarding Cubans. If so, this means that they intend to treat Cubans entering illegally or at the borders in the same way as everyone else. If they do that, it will mean that only Cubans who legally enter the U.S. with a visa or with a parole from outside the U.S. will get the benefit of the Cuban Adjustment Act. If DHS enforced the Cuban Adjustment Act in this way, it would represent a significant change in the law.
Ira Kurzban is a well-known Miami immigration attorney.
[Photo by Carlos Ernesto Escalona Martí / Kako]