A U.S. policy of allowing Cubans who arrived in the U.S. by land an automatic residency was just repealed by President Obama on Thursday.
The repeal of the policy dubbed, “Wet-foot, Dry-foot”, allowed any Cuban who reached U.S. soil to stay but returned any Cuban picked up at sea, went into immediate effect. The policy didn’t care if the Cubans had visas or not, they were allowed to stay.
Unfortunately, timing is everything, and for Cuban-born Jose Enrique Manreza, his timing was off.
In December, Manreza sold his house and belongings in pursuit of the American dream and now finds himself stranded in a Mexican border town after Washington abruptly ended the lenient immigration policy.
Manreza was staying at a migrant shelter in the southern Mexican city of Tapachula with thirty other Cubans when they got the heartbreaking news. He said, “Imagine how I feel after I spent six days and six nights running through rivers and jungles in the humidity.”
Manreza, who ran a soda factory in Havana, said he spent about $10,000 on his trip, including a flight to French Guiana, guides through South America and bribes to keep people from abusing his daughter while they were on their journey.
“I had to give them lots and lots of money, and now this happens,” Manreza said.
To make matters worse, Manreza said his wife, a nurse, was working in Venezuela as part of a Cuban oil-for-doctors program. Unfortunately, President Obama also rolled back a “medical parole” program dating back to 2006, which allowed Cuban doctors working in third countries to move to the United States simply by walking into a U.S. embassy.
“She cried when I called her,” Manreza said. Now his choices are to return to Cuba a broke man or seek asylum in Mexico.
Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser, said some “40,000 Cubans arrived in the United States in 2015 and about 54,000 in 2016.”
Gabriel Alejandro Marín, part of a group of 50 Cubans in Panama City, said, “There are people with children, pregnant women, elderly people… we have all sold everything for this.”
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Obama Ends Long-Standing Cuban Immigration Exception