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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Florida reaction to Obama scrapping 'wet-foot, dry-foot' policy toward Cubans

President Barack Obama speaks at the Grand Theater of Havana, Cuba, on March 22. He is ending a longstanding immigration policy that allows any Cuban national who makes it to U.S. soil to stay and become a legal resident, a senior administration official said Thursday.

Associated Press

President Barack Obama speaks at the Grand Theater of Havana, Cuba, on March 22. He is ending a longstanding immigration policy that allows any Cuban national who makes it to U.S. soil to stay and become a legal resident, a senior administration official said Thursday.

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January

Sen. Bill Nelson: “The ‘wet foot, dry foot’ policy was put in place many years ago to help those who were fleeing Castro’s repressive regime. I believe changing this outdated policy in order to be fair to all and also to prevent people from abusing the system is the right thing to do."

Sen. Marco Rubio: “While I have acknowledged the need to reform the Cuban Adjustment Act for some time now, the Obama Administration’s characterization of this change as part of the ongoing normalization with the Castro regime is absurd. It is in fact President Obama's failed Cuba policy, combined with the Castro regime’s increased repression, that has led to a rise in Cuban migration since 2014. The Cuban Adjustment Act has provided countless Cubans the opportunity to escape the Castro tyranny. However, in recent years it has also led to growing abuses. While some changes were needed, we must work to ensure that Cubans who arrive here to escape political persecution are not summarily returned to the regime, and they are given a fair opportunity to apply for and receive political asylum. Furthermore, I am concerned by the decision to terminate the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program. For decades, the Castro regime has forced thousands of doctors to go abroad as a tool of its foreign policy. This is political repression, and I am optimistic that the incoming Trump Administration will reverse this part of the executive order and allow these doctors to seek asylum at U.S. embassies or consulates in other countries. I had the opportunity to discuss this issue with Vice President-elect Pence this evening, and I am heartened by the fact that in a week we will have a new administration committed to discarding the failed Cuba policy of the last two years.”

Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa: “The end of the “wet foot/dry foot” policy should be followed by congressional action to lift the outdated economic embargo and improve economic conditions for everyday Cubans.  This is an important step in normalizing our relationship and America must do everything to lift small business entrepreneurs and create opportunities on both sides of the Florida Straits.  We must continue to leave the Cold War policies behind and build new bridges for jobs and economic opportunities for both nations.

"I have witnessed how the “wet foot, dry foot” policy created an uneven playing field for immigrants from other Caribbean nations who are also seeking the opportunity to pursue the American dream.    I have also seen Cubans who try to come here for short term visits to see family members negatively affected by “wet foot/dry foot.”  The change in policy today will help ensure that we can have safer and more orderly migration with all of our Caribbean neighbors.”

Gov. Rick Scott: "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. 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.”

RELATED COVERAGE: Obama scrapping 'wet-foot, dry-foot' policy for Cubans

And here is President Obama's statement:

Today, the United States is taking important steps forward to normalize relations with Cuba and to bring greater consistency to our immigration policy. The Department of Homeland Security is ending the so-called "wet-foot/dry foot" policy, which was put in place more than twenty years ago and was designed for a different era.  Effective immediately, Cuban nationals who attempt to enter the United States illegally and do not qualify for humanitarian relief will be subject to removal, consistent with U.S. law and enforcement priorities.  By taking this step, we are treating Cuban migrants the same way we treat migrants from other countries. The Cuban government has agreed to accept the return of Cuban nationals who have been ordered removed, just as it has been accepting the return of migrants interdicted at sea.

Today, the Department of Homeland Security is also ending the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program.  The United States and Cuba are working together to combat diseases that endanger the health and lives of our people. By providing preferential treatment to Cuban medical personnel, the medical parole program contradicts those efforts, and risks harming the Cuban people.  Cuban medical personnel will now be eligible to apply for asylum at U.S. embassies and consulates around the world, consistent with the procedures for all foreign nationals.

The United States, a land of immigrants, has been enriched by the contributions of Cuban-Americans for more than a century.  Since I took office, we have put the Cuban-American community at the center of our policies. With this change we will continue to welcome Cubans as we welcome immigrants from other nations, consistent with our laws.   During my Administration, we worked to improve the lives of the Cuban people - inside of Cuba - by providing them with greater access to resources, information and connectivity to the wider world. Sustaining that approach is the best way to ensure that Cubans can enjoy prosperity, pursue reforms, and determine their own destiny. As I said in Havana, the future of Cuba should be in the hands of the Cuban people.

[Last modified: Friday, January 13, 2017 2:34pm]

    

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