South Florida Cubans React to 'Wet Foot, Dry Foot' Change

NBC 6's Jamie Guirola gets reaction from South Florida Cubans on the change to the Cuban immigration policy. (Published Friday, Jan. 13, 2017)

The White House announced Thursday the end of the 'wet foot, dry foot' policy that grants residency to Cubans arriving United States.

The policy change is effective immediately and is the latest move to normalize relations between the U.S. and Havana.

In South Florida, which is home to the largest Cuban exile community, there was mixed reaction to the announcement.

"Those lines get longer and longer for Cubans in Miami that recently arrived that want to reunite with their families. This might be a bittersweet moment, because I know a lot of them actually tried to see if they could get their families here," Dr. Gomez said in a phone interview with NBC 6 Thursday.

Many people dining at Versailles Restaurant, a Little Havana fixture, said they support the change. "They should stay there and fight for their freedom," said a patron who was born in Cuba. "It's very nice to leave your home and when something wrong happens in your home and go some place else and forget about your home," the man added.

Florida Senator Bill Nelson released a statement saying, "I believe changing this outdated policy in order to be fair to all and also to prevent people from abusing the system is the right thing to do.”

However, Florida congressman Mario Diaz-Balart called the Obama administration's decision "another shameful concession to the Castro regime." The Republican added, "President Obama has found one more way to frustrate the democratic aspirations of the Cuban people."

The move to scrap the policy also ends the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program that gave special privileges to Cuban doctors fleeing the communist island.

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen criticized the shutter of this program saying, "the repeal of the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program was done because that's what the Cuban dictatorship wanted and the White House caved to what Castro wants."