On January 12, 2017, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced changes to the policies and regulations affecting Cuban nationals. DHS stated the “changes represent another important step in the normalization of the migration relationship between the two countries, and are intended to ensure regular, safe, and orderly migration between them.” Moving forward, there will be no “wet-foot/dry-foot” policy for arriving Cuban nationals. This policy gave those Cubans arriving in the U.S. residency, even if they did not have visas. If a Cuban was intercepted at sea (“wet foot”), they were returned to Cuba or resettled in a third country, while those who made it to U.S. soil (“dry foot”) were able to request permanent resident status. By eliminating this policy, President Obama stated the U.S. is “treating Cuban migrants the same way we treat migrants from other countries.” This policy was put into place after a revision was added in 1995 to the Cuban Adjustment Act, in an effort to isolate Cuba and prevent mass migration of Cubans to the U.S.
DHS also ended the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program (CMPP), which was created in 2006. The program allowed Cuban medical personnel to seek asylum in the U.S. while on assignments abroad. President Obama reasoned that the program risked harming the Cuban people by undermining the work Cuba and the U.S. are involved with to combat diseases. The Cuban Family Reunification Parole program will remain in effect. This program allows certain eligible U.S. citizens to apply for parole for their family members in Cuba. DHS stated the “program seeks to expedite family reunification through safe, legal, and orderly channels of migration to the United States and discourage dangerous and irregular maritime migration.” Cubans already in the pipeline under both “wet foot, dry foot” and the CMPP will be allowed to continue the process toward gaining legal status.