Over the past year the number of Cuban refugees arriving in the United States has increased.  Much of this increase is due to speculation and insecurity on the island nation about what life will bring after Fidel Castro’s death.

Under United States’ policy, Cubans who reach American land are generally allowed to stay (dry foot).  Under the Cuban Adjustment Act, refugees who remain for a year and one day are eligible to adjust their immigration status to that of a legal permanent resident (green card).  Cubans who are stopped by the Coast Guard at sea or stopped short of the American coastline are repatriated to Cuba.

Recently, Cubans are seeking freedom in the United States by traveling through the Gulf of Mexico to Mexico instead of the shorter route to Florida through the Florida Straits.  Smugglers are using this alternative route due to increased patrols by the U.S. Coast Guard.  Smugglers are paid thousands of dollars per refugee, sometimes up to $12,000 per person.  These smuggling operations are a lucrative business and incredibly inhumane.  Many times smugglers will demand more money just as the coast line comes into view.  Those refugees who are unwilling or unable to pay are forced to jump out of the boat and swim.  Sadly, the smugglers are paid by Cuban family members living in the United States who are either unaware of the danger their relatives will face or are willing to assume the grave risk to reunite their family.  Time magazine has recently reported about deadly turf wars among criminal gangs in Mexico that control these smuggling operations. http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1704913,00.html

During this past week:

The above examples occur every week in South Florida.  The United States’ absurd policy towards Cubans encourages refugees to pay thousands to smugglers and risk their lives attempting to reach the shores of the United States. 

During the U.S. Presidential debate there will be no discussion about the wet foot/dry foot policy.  The Cuban community overwhelmingly supports the Republican party, largely due to their tough stance against Castro and promises to continue the harmful and outdated economic embargo.  These same Republican candidates who propose fences across the Mexico border will never discuss the wet foot/dry foot policy that allows migrants, from a nation officially listed by the U.S. State Dept. as supporting terrorism, to remain in the United States for fear of losing the strong support they maintain among the Cuban community in South Florida.

I do not propose a tougher policy against Cuban migrants.  I only propose that there should be a national discussion about a policy that is more humane than the current one.  Sadly, as awful as the results from the wet foot/dry foot policy can be, it is a much more fair and reasonable policy than the one that Haitians confront.

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