WASHINGTON (CNS) — The chairman of the Committee on Migration at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said he was disappointed with President Barack Obama’s new policy ending a long-standing agreement that allowed Cubans who arrive in the U.S. without visas to remain in the country and gain legal residency.
“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,” Obama said in a Jan. 12 statement. “By taking this step, we are treating Cuban migrants the same way we treat migrants from other countries.”
The repeal of the policy, dubbed “wet foot, dry foot,” was effective immediately and followed months of negotiations. It was praised by the Cuban government as “an important step in advancing relations” between the two countries.
In a Jan. 13 statement, Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, migration committee chairman, said the U.S. bishops have “welcomed normalizing relations with Cuba,” but he also noted that “the violation of basic human rights remains a reality for some Cubans and the ‘wet foot, dry foot’ policy helped to afford them a way to seek refuge in the United States.”
The bishop also noted the remarkable contributions of Cuban Americans, saying they have been “one of the most successful immigrant groups in U.S. history” and that the protections that had been given to them “were a model of humane treatment.”
Bishop Vasquez said ending the policy will “make it more difficult for vulnerable populations in Cuba, such as asylum seekers, children, and trafficking victims, to seek protection.”
President Bill Clinton created the policy for Cuban immigrants in 1995, revising one that had allowed Cubans caught at sea on their way to the United States to become legal residents in a year.
Under the terms of the new agreement, Cuba has agreed to take back those turned away from the U.S. if the time between their departure from Cuba and the start of deportation hearings in the U.S. is four years or less.
The Associated Press reported that since October 2012, more than 118,000 Cubans have presented themselves at ports of entry along the U.S. border. The number included more than 48,000 who arrived between October 2015 and November 2016.
Cubans already in the United States under the old policy will be able to continue the process toward gaining legal status.
Bishop Vasquez said that moving forward, he and his fellow bishops would continue to work to ensure “humane treatment for vulnerable populations, from Cuba and elsewhere, seeking refuge in the United States.”
Join the CatholicPhilly.com family
CatholicPhilly.com works to strengthen the connections between people, families and communities every day by delivering the news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live.
By your donation in any amount, you and hundreds of other people become part of our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community and sustain CatholicPhilly.com as your trusted news source. Thank you in advance!
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103