On Jan. 12, 2017, the Department of Homeland Security announced changes to policies affecting Cuban nationals and their parole and expedited removal processes.
The announcements are part of an effort to normalize relations between the United States and Cuba that began when President Barack Obama reopened diplomatic relations and travel between the two countries in Dec. 2014.
DHS has adjusted its policies concerning Cuban nationals, including the decades old “wet-foot/dry-foot” policy, expedited removal policy, and a policy for Cuban medical professionals called the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program.
How Is the Wet-Foot/Dry-Foot Policy Changing?
The Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966 gave all Cubans who reached US territorial waters the chance to remain in the country as lawful permanent residents if they fulfilled the following requirements:
Were inspected, admitted, or parole into the U.S.
Were physically present in the U.S. for at least one year
Were other admissible for resident status
A 1995 revision to the policy—known as the “wet-foot/dry-foot” policy—revised the requirements. Cuban nationals who were apprehended at sea (wet-foot) were either returned to Cuba or resettled in another country, while Cubans who made it to U.S. soil (dry-foot) were eligible to request parole and gain lawful permanent residence in the U.S.
DHS’s new policy effective Jan. 12 eliminates this special accommodation given to Cuban nationals.
How Is the Expedited Removal Process Changing?
Changes to the DHS’s policy effective Jan. 12 now subject Cubans to the same expedited removal policies as other foreign nationals who are apprehended at ports of entry or near the U.S. border.
The new policy will affect all Cuban nationals who arrived in the country via air, land, or sea.
How Is the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program Changing?
Beginning on Aug. 11, 2006, the DHS began allowing Cuban nationals who were medical professionals entering the U.S. from countries other than Cuba an opportunity to apply for parole through the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program (CMPP).
DHS’s new policy has repealed those opportunities, and the agency will no longer accept parole applications from Cuban national medical professionals.
The Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program Isn’t Changing
DHS will not make changes to the Cuban Family Reunification Parole program. This program allows Cuban nationals who receive approved family-sponsored immigrant visa petitions a chance to travel to the U.S. before their immigrant visas are available. The program was designed to expedite the process by which families can reunite in the U.S. in a safe and legal manner.