President Obama announced Thursday that he is ending the American refugee policy giving Cuban asylum seekers expedited asylum and refugee status as long as they made it to American shores.
Hudson County congressman Albio Sires (D-12) strongly objected to the move, questioning its timing one week before the end of the Obama Administration and as the nation prepares for a new President, Donald Trump, who is seen in some corners as hostile to immigrants and Latinos in general.
The following statement was sent out by Congressman Sires:
“I have long advocated for helping the people oppressed under the Castro regime after fleeing the island myself at the young age of eleven.
Wet Foot Dry Foot was enacted to help those fleeing Cuba’s oppressive regime. These people left in the dead of night with nothing but the clothes on their backs knowing they could never look back, leaving behind everything and everyone they knew. They made the treacherous journey in make shift rafts, faring the choppy waters, and putting their lives at risk in hopes of a life away from Castro’s death squads and labor camps.
Unfortunately, in recent years people have used this policy to reap economic rewards and by sending money back to the island or even going back themselves to visit. While I am sympathetic to the plight of all the Cuban people, this program was designed for those asylees and refugees that were forced to flee. Money sent back to the island has no choice but to pass through the hands of the regime that for years has been using this program to fill their coffers.
Additionally, at a time when we are entering a new Administration led by someone who has repeatedly made hateful and disparaging remarks on refugees, minorities, and immigrants, I question the timing of enacting policies that hinder the ability of those who escaping persecution to find solace in our great nation.
I continue to insist that any normalization with Cuba needs to put human rights and the basic freedoms the Cuban people yearn for first and look forward to continuing to fight for the rights of the Cuban people.”