Local Cubans react to President Obama's decision to end 'wet foot, dry foot' policy

Posted at 12:13 AM, Jan 13, 2017

Less than two months ago Cubans in South Florida celebrated the death of former Cuban President Fidel Castro, hoping his passing meant the beginning of a new story for the island, but on Thursday, President Barack Obama closed an entire chapter.

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"He made the biggest mistake 8 days before leaving the White House," said Carlos Gonzalez, a Cuban author and exile living in West Palm Beach.

President Obama is ending the 'Wet Foot,Dry Foot' policy enacted by the Clinton Administration in 1996. Under the policy, Cubans who reach American soil can stay in the country. Now, Cubans will be deported like any other immigrant attempting to enter illegally.

"The only alternative the Cuban people have now is to take a boat, risk their life, and come to the United States and you close those doors? I cannot applaud President Obama.

Gonzalez was a political prisoner in Cuba, He tried to leave boat in 1961 and was caught. He finally left the island in the 1967 in search of a better life for his family.

"We are coming here from Cuba, from Central America, from Europe. Everybody comes looking for what? Security, freedom, opportunities. This is the number one country in the world," added Gonzalez.

Some say Obama's decision will now level the playing field for all immigrants.

"A lot of people try to migrate to this country from all over Haiti, Dominican Republic, the other Caribbean nations. When they get here they get turned back," said Joseph Belzaguy. 

But Ruben Navarro argues that other countries have not faced the five decade long communist regime Cubans have. 

"If we had the same right, I would agree with that, but we don't," said Navarro. 

The Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966 still stands. It allows Cubans who come into the country legally gain immediate admission and permanent residence status after one year.