by Lourdes Rivery
January 12, 2017 marks what is, perhaps, the most significant day in U.S.-Cuba relations to date. Then-President Barack Obama made a public statement confirming the two countries would re-establish diplomatic relations. On this day, he also announced the end of the longstanding “Wet Foot, Dry Foot” policy, which had been in place since 1995. The policy allowed Cubans who reached U.S. soil to become permanent residents and be fast-tracked for citizenship. Terminating the policy, which was seen by many as preferential treatment to Cubans, could have major implications for Cubans migrating to the United States in the future.
“By taking this step, we are treating Cuban migrants the same way we treat migrants from other countries,” Obama wrote in a statement on Thursday, January 13, 2017.
The identity and story of Cuban-Americans as immigrants to the U.S., in large part as a result of “Wet Foot, Dry Foot”, has created a different narrative for us than that of other Latino immigrants – leading to a division in how we perceive, understand, and relate to their stories and experiences.
In light of this policy change, how will the Cuban diaspora respond in the long-term? While it remains to be seen, one thing we can absolutely count on is that Cubans will not stop coming to our shores. For the first time, we will have undocumented Cubans.
Though a generational divide exists regarding opinions and reactions to the end of “Wet Foot, Dry Foot,” my hope is that we as Cuban-Americans will aim to cultivate a stronger, more powerful bond of solidarity with other Latino immigrant communities. It is vital that we capitalize on our unity as immigrants in this country and become more involved in the political process, especially with respect to immigration reform.
Now that we have an equal stake in comprehensive immigration reform, I hope we continue to remind ourselves that we do not have to be part of a certain group, in order to stand with that group.