U.S. deports first Cubans since end of ‘wet foot, dry foot’

In this file photo a federal agent walks among shackled immigrants who are being deported.
In this file photo a federal agent walks among shackled immigrants who are being deported.

Two Cuban women who were deemed “inadmissible” for entry to the United States were placed on a morning flight to Havana on Friday, becoming the first to be deported since the Jan. 12 elimination of an immigration policy known as “wet foot, dry foot.”

“This morning U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement removed 2 Cuban nationals to Havana,” said a statement from ICE.

With her back to the bridge that connects Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, to the U.S., Idiana Laurencio gives an emotional appeal, saying she fears returning to Cuba after being denied entry to the U.S. “They will put me someplace, shut me in and beat me,”

An ICE official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed that this is the first “removal flight” involving Cubans since the change in immigration policy.

A few days before leaving the White House, former President Barack Obama declared an end to “wet foot, dry foot,” which allowed most Cubans who made it to U.S. soil to stay.

ICE did not specify when or where the women arrived in the United States. But Wilfredo Allen, the attorney for one of the women, told el Nuevo Herald that they had arrived at Miami International Airport with European passports.

The women requested asylum and were detained. According to Allen, they asked to suspend their asylum application and voluntarily return to the island, for which they already had return tickets.

“The fact that ICE deported them even though they asked to return voluntarily sends a negative message,” Allen said.

Last week, ICE told el Nuevo Herald that it had detained 172 Cubans after the policy change. The number of pending asylum cases has not been disclosed.

Also on Friday, the U.S. Coast Guard returned 11 Cubans intercepted at sea to Bahía de Cabañas, west of Havana. According to the Coast Guard, the flow of Cuban migrants trying to cross the Florida Straits to reach the U.S. has decreased significantly after the elimination of “wet foot, dry foot.”

Cubans stand across the street from the bridge connecting Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, to Laredo, Texas, pondering their next move as they hold out hope to find a way to the United States. President Obama announced Thursday the end of the long-standing “

Follow Nora Gámez Torres on Twitter: @ngameztorres