Congressman: ‘Wet foot-dry foot' policy relic of bygone era

By Jessie Degollado - Reporter
Posted: 6:59 PM, March 23, 2016
Updated: 6:59 PM, March 23, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Within days of President Obama’s historic visit to Cuba, a stunning piece of legislation has been introduced that would hold Cubans to the same standard as millions of other immigrants.

It would require they go before immigration judges who will decide if they can stay, and no longer offer the federal benefits they’re currently given upon arriving in the U.S.

The Correcting Unfair Benefits for CUBA Act is co-sponsored by Democratic U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar of Laredo and Republican U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold of Corpus Christi.

Cuellar said they did it “to level the playing field for all those seeking to enter this country.”

He said now is the time in the wake of normalizing relations between the countries that is fueling the exodus of an estimated 67,000 Cubans into the U.S.

Cuellar said since the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966, at the height of Communism on the island nation, Cubans arriving in the U.S. were granted “exceptional status.”

Coupled with the current “wet foot-dry foot” policy, Cuellar said they are “relics of a bygone era and a Cold War that has since passed.”

It returns those Cubans apprehended at sea, but allows those who set foot on dry land to legally stay.

Cuellar said that’s been the case over the last two years in Laredo, where 47,000 Cubans have crossed the International Bridge, 28,000 so far this year.

He also said 30 flights a month have been landing at the airport in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, from Ecuador where up to 40,000 others with travel documents from Cuba are waiting their turns.

Cuellar said after they arrive in the U.S., they’re eligible for federal benefits such as housing, food stamps and “anything they can get.”

Click here to read the Correcting Unfair Benefits for CUBA Act.

He said after one year, they can become legal residents, and naturalized citizens after three years.

“Nobody else gets that kind of treatment,” he said.

He said certainly not Central Americans, who are fleeing violence from countries like Honduras, considered the murder capital of the world.

“We shouldn’t be handing out special status and benefits for a select group,” Cuellar said.

He said his legislation would repeal the Cuban Adjustment Act after 50 years.

Cuellar said it could be difficult during a presidential election year, but it’s definitely worth the try.