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Reaction Remains Mixed After Obama Administration Eliminates ‘Wet Foot, Dry Foot' Policy For Cuban Imigrants

A new reality for Cubans is coming into focus in Little Havana – as scrapping the "wet-foot, dry-foot" policy means just reaching dry land won't be enough for Cubans to stay in the USA.

This comes after a spike in Cuban arrivals between October 2015 and July 2016. The pew research center reports 46,635 Cubans reached America via ports of entry.

Cubans can still seek political asylum, but now they'll be treated the same way the U.S. Government treats migrants from anywhere else in the world.

President Obama’s administration emphasizes Cubans first came for more political reasons when the policy was enacted over 20 years ago, now their reasons are more economic.

Some sipping cafecito at Cafe Versailles agree it's time for a change.

"What they suffer there... We can't imagine. We think we can but we really can't. So when they come over here they're looking for a better life for themselves,” said Cuban-American Frank Cantero. But if it's so bad, why do you continue going back, why do you continue visiting? Why do you continue taking advantage of what we're offering you when we bring you into this country?"

Then there's another question - what will President elect Donald Trump do as soon as next week?

"I think Donald Trump should sit down and evaluate the Wet Foot Dry Foot, the Cuban Adjustment Act, but also the fact that that dictatorship utilizes the Cubans as merchandise," said Democracy Movement leader Ramon Raul Sanchez.

The U.S. Coast Guard issued a statement saying that they will stop any person trying to enter the country illegally, urging Cuban American communities to discourage people from risking their lives with the "dangerous and illegal at-sea crossings."

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement expressing disappointment in the policy change.

“While we have welcomed normalizing relations with Cuba, the violation of basic human rights remains a reality for some Cubans and the wet foot/dry foot policy helped to afford them a way to seek refuge in the United States,” said Bishop Joe Vasquez, chairman of the Committee on Migration.

The Florida Immigrant Coalition, which has been critical of the law in the pass and said it unfairly gave Cuban immigrants an advantage over those from other countries, said: "But in the absence of that reform, restricting family reunification and freedom of movement for any group hurts us all.”

What remains in place is The Cuban Adjustment Act that allows Cubans to achieve permanent residency after a year. But scrapping wet foot dry foot makes it much harder to reach that level.

The White House argues having a young dynamic population is critical to changing Cuba on the inside.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott released a statement Friday critical of the policy change.

"President Obama’s Cuba policy can be summed up this way: he has legitimized and coddled a bloodthirsty dictator and in the process, he has turned his back on those who have fought so hard for a free Cuba. As we sit here right now, people in Cuba are being persecuted and killed for their faith, for supporting democracy, for expressing their political views, and for simply desiring freedom," Scott said. "With the President’s latest move, it appears that he has consulted and negotiated with a foreign tyrant while completely ignoring the United States Congress. We have a number of great members of Congress in our Florida delegation of Cuban descent, but of course the President did not involve them in his decision-making. Obama’s polices have not improved human rights in Cuba. In fact, things may be getting worse. We believe that the murderous regime made about 10,000 political arrests last year. Just this week, pro-democracy leader Dr. Oscar Biscet was arrested. Obama has betrayed America’s long-standing commitment to human rights and freedom in Cuba. We need a Cuba policy that respects the fundamental desire of the Cuban people to be free."

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