- - Thursday, January 19, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Mr. Antonio Bened bemoans the repeal of the “wet feet, dry feet” immigration policy by President Obama (“Obama’s betrayal of the Cuban people,” Web, Jan. 17). Said policy puts Cubans who reach U.S. soil on a fast track to permanent residency. He and I disagree on this issue.

First, let’s correct the record. Mr. Bened indicates that this policy was put in place in response to former President Bill Clinton’s handling of the Elian Gonzalez incident. This is simply not factual. The policy was started in 1995 by President Clinton as a preventive measure against a mass exodus of Cuban refugees after Fidel Castro threatened another exodus of Cubans to protest the U.S. embargo. The Elian Gonzalez incident took place in 2000, long after the policy was firmly in place.

President Obama’s decision to abolish the “wet feet, dry feet” rule was the right one to take, and it’s been long overdue. When most Cubans who benefitted from this policy in the past returned to Communist Cuba repeatedly after obtaining their residency by living for one year and one day in the United States, it transformed them from political refugees to economic immigrants. They ceased to be “political refugees,” people afraid to return to their home countries for fear their lives would be endangered. To afford these Cubans special privileges that were denied immigrants of other nationalities was in itself discriminatory and challenging to our fair-play values. So kudos to President Obama for ending this “pachanga” once and for all.

To restore freedom and democracy to Communist Cuba, it is the Cubans who have to trigger a ‘Cuban Spring.’ The “wet feet, dry feet” policy provided an escape valve to shirk this responsibility. It provided the Cuban government with a lifeline into the future by getting rid of most of the regime’s dissenters. Those dissidents who remained in Cuba were then either locked up in Cuban gulags or killed by Communist thugs. With the repeal of the policy, there will be enough dissidents in Cuba to provide the spark for the liberation movement that will untie the chains that have oppressed Cuban citizens for over 57 years.

JORGE E. PONCE

Trinity, Fla.

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