For the second time in three months, Cuban migrants made landfall in the Florida Keys this week — a once-weekly, and sometimes daily, occurrence until the Obama administration, in its waning days, repealed a decades-old policy treating those fleeing the communist nation as refugees.
Friday morning, a single-engine “rustic vessel” arrived at Fort Zachary Taylor Park in Key West carrying seven Cubans — five men and two women, said U.S. Border Patrol Supervisory Agent Adam Hoffner.
“The subjects all appeared to be in good health,” he said by email. “All of the subjects were processed for removal.”
The passengers said they left Mariel, Cuba, on Thursday.
Migration from Cuba to Florida by sea went from a flow to a trickle since then-President Obama, in one of his most significant last acts in office, ended the so-called wet-foot, dry-foot policy, which classified every Cuban who reached U.S. shores as a refugee. It was a 1995 change to the Cold War-era Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966.
Under the policy, those stopped by U.S. authorities at sea were sent back to Cuba. But Cubans who reached land in the States could stay and apply for permanent residency after a year. In the year preceding Obama’s order ending wet-foot, dry-foot, Cuban migration through all points of entry spiked because of the then-president’s stated goal of strengthening diplomatic ties with the Castro regime.
Cubans correctly feared Obama would one day end the policy. While there was still a real incentive to do so, they left their homeland for the United States in droves until the door shut on Jan 12. Now, anyone caught at sea or who touches soil is sent back.
Friday’s landing at Fort Zach marks the first one since early October when four men arrived by boat in the Keys city of Layton at mile marker 68.2.
David Goodhue: 305-440-3204