For the uninitiated:
I was not familiar with this policy until I moved to Miami. It seems like every week, there’s news of folks washing up on the shore and using the “wet foot, dry foot” policy as a “get out of jail free” card. The existence of the policy indicates to me the huge political clout that Cubans enjoy here in south Florida, and also the US’s inconsistency in how we treat immigrants.
While I have met a couple of Cuban Americans who think Cuban immigrants should be treated similarly to other immigrants, most (at least down here) think the “wet foot, dry foot” policy doesn’t treat Cubans preferentially enough.
Strangely, there was little protest amongst these “freedom loving” folks when, on April 7th , a cabin cruiser landed in South Florida with 1 Jamaican, 45 Haitians, and 1 Cuban. Guess who was rounded up and deported, their handcuffed wrists shown repeatedly on the local news? Guess who was welcomed with open arms and allowed to stay?
Now, I’m very sympathetic to the victims of oppressive governments…and I have no doubt that most Cubans are in this situation. But I also know that Haiti is just as bad a place, if not much worse, that communism doesn’t hold a monopoly on evil and oppression, and freedom doesn’t necessarily mean freedom. If it were up to bedwetting liberal me, I would probably open the borders up to everyone with a sob story. But I realize this generosity is neither practical nor necessarily good for the country.
But I don’t like the wet foot, dry foot policy. It not only encourages dangerous behavior (people have died en route and also while escaping the Coast Guard), but it plays political favorites. Is it better to be impoverished in a country that provides universal healthcare and quality education (I have met some awesomely intelligent Cubans), or be poor in a country with none of the above plus few natural resources and violent anarchy? My sister’s in-laws are Haitians and they are some of the most resourceful, family-oriented, hardworking, and good-looking people I know. Why are they less entitled to the “good life” than a corresponding Cuban family? Doesn’t the “wet foot, dry foot” policy invite these kinds of questions?
My questions to the audience:
- Should immigration reform include changes to the “wet foot, dry foot” policy?
- Are the criteria we use to establish who gets asylum and who doesn’t fair? Do you think they should be loosened up or made more restrictive?
- Should Americans be concerned about how our immigrants laws will change with increased immigration? The “wet foot, dry foot” policy has support amongst Cuban Americans, who tend to vote conservative and Republican. In the future, should we expect to see laws adjusted to reflect the views of other immigrant groups, like Mexicans and Central Americans? How will immigrants from countries like Venuzuela be treated in the future?