First Flight of Cuban Deportees Arrives in Havana from US

The “wet foot, dry foot” policy was ended by Barack Obama in January. 

(Telesur) – More than 680 migrants were deported to Cuba Friday, including 117 on a charter flight from the U.S., the first arrivals since the end of the “wet foot, dry foot” policy which guaranteed residency to almost every Cuban who reached U.S. soil.

Cuban authorities on Friday said that the first charter flight had deported 117 migrants from the U.S. Others arrived in Havana from flights and boats, including 408 from Mexico, 117 from the Bahamas and 39 from the Cayman Islands. Up until Feb. 17, a total of almost 1,000 migrants have been returned to Havana from those countries.

On Jan. 12, in one of his final moves as president, Obama ended the “wet foot, dry foot” policy that guaranteed residence to Cubans who arrived in the United States without a visa and special status for medical professionals on the island. 

The Cuban government has continually argued that the policy – first enacted in 1966 and updated during subsequent administrations – was an example of a long wrap sheet of U.S. aggression towards Cuba and encouraged illegal and risky migration by water. Cuba has repeated demanded an end to the policy. 

Many who left Cuba were professionals, not only putting a strain on the Cuban economy, but also promoting a “brain drain” away from the island nation. 

Many critics also said that the policy promoted dangerous forms of travel and was an incentive for human trafficking by criminal groups. Often those fleeing would use tugboats and homemade rafts not equipped for the journey to neighboring Florida.

While a crippling U.S. economic embargo remains intact against Cuba, Obama moved to thaw relations with Havana in 2014. Trump, however, has been critical of the change in approach, vowing to review and possibly scrap Obama’s approach unless Cuba makes further concessions. Trump has not yet elaborated on what that would entail.