The U.S. Coast Guard says that a small number of Cuban nationals are continuing to migrate to the United States via maritime routes, despite the end of a long-standing U.S. policy that granted them residency if they made it to American shores.
Former President Barack Obama ended the so-called "wet-foot/dry-foot" policy on January 12, one week before he left office. The change closed out a Cold War-era policy that had been a source of friction with the Cuban government, and it gives Cuban migrants the same immigration status as all other foreign nationals. "Wet foot/dry foot" was a continuation of the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966, which allowed permanent residency for Cuban nationals intercepted in U.S. territorial waters; it was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson as a way to protect opponents of the Castro regime.
Many Cubans expected that Obama would phase out "wet-foot/dry-foot," despite the administration’s frequent denial of any plans to change it, and migration flows increased in 2015-2016 as migrants attempted to beat a perceived deadline and improve their economic fortunes. Even now that the deadline has passed, the end of Cuban nationals’ special immigration status does not appear to have ended the flow of northbound migration. The service says that it has intercepted a total of 65 migrants at sea since January 12, when "wet foot/dry foot" ended, including 27 intercepted just off of Key Largo on March 12.
“We discourage anyone from taking to the sea and attempting to reach U.S. soil illegally. They are risking their lives with very little chance of success,” said Captain Aldante Vinciguerra, the chief of response for the Coast Guard's Seventh District.