President Obama’s decision to end the wet foot/ dry foot policy for Cubans caught the rest of us flat-footed. It has unexpected consequences that will lead to unwarranted human suffering.
The president can provide immediate relief — and should do so quickly.
Thursday’s order ending the policy that gives Cubans without visas who make it to dry land automatic parole and a chance to become residents in a year has left thousands of Cubans stuck in transit at the Mexican border, on the Florida Straits and even at Miami International Airport.
Some families were separated simply because of bad timing. Some family members were processed through Border Patrol before the president’s order took effect while their relatives were still in line — some since early in the morning — and were told the privilege of entering was being denied.
Those are the people now stuck in limbo. If they return to Cuba, they will not be treated kindly, and they can’t stay in Central America or Mexico for long without facing deportation. The president should step in and rectify this situation. He should amend his order and allow in anyone who has proof that they left Cuba by Jan. 12.
It’s only fair: These migrants were not given any warning this would occur as they were making their long journey from Cuba.
There is no turning back for them. They bet their future on the promise of America, just as so many others from so many other countries have done.
The editorial boards of el Nuevo Herald and the Miami Herald seek a small window of opportunity for Cubans who’ve had the door shut in their faces.
This would only help Cubans whose flights took off prior to the announcement; who were already making their way to the Mexican border before the new rule, but had not crossed; Cubans whose boats were in the water before the new policy kicked in and have made it to land.
And also the Cuban doctors who had already processed paperwork to take part in a parole program should also be allowed to come. The president’s order brought that program to an end, too.
Members of the Miami-Dade congressional delegation may step in to help. Among them is U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Miami, who said on Friday he supports the idea of allowing Cubans whose flights took off prior to the Obama announcement to be processed under the old policy. The same for the medical professionals already given the go-ahead to come to the United States on parole.
As for the hundreds of Cubans stuck on the other side of the Mexican border, Curbelo said he’s in contact with the Department of Homeland Security to see how they can verify their time of departure from the island.
Truth is, there’s reason to help these Cuban immigrants, just as Central Americans and Haitians received limited help through temporary protected status (TPS) after disasters or wars in their home countries.
This is Obama’s opportunity to make a humanitarian gesture before he leaves office on Jan. 20. He can amend his presidential order and allow those Cubans to complete their journey and get work permits upon arrival.
And if Obama won’t budge, we look to President-elect Donald Trump to show mercy and amend the order.
It’s the right thing to do. The humanitarian thing to do. The American thing to do.
Editor’s note: This is an updated version of an editorial that was posted on Jan. 13.