What on earth was this "wet foot, dry foot"? First some background to understand this discriminatory policy. Back in 1966 under a very different World political atmosphere the United States decided to create and pass into Federal Law the Cuban Adjustment Act which included the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program it was signed into Federal Law by President Johnson that ultimate politician. Act 1 was thus on stage.
This policy being unique to Cubans led to the influx of Cubans into Dade County Florida and in a very short time they had taken over the County in business, politics and language which led to the present state where 65% of the Miami-Dade County population now are Spanish speaking and indeed in business one is expected to speak Spanish and English (hopefully - English is not required in many area retail stores and businesses). You may have noticed that the County name was changed from the historical Dade to Miami-Dade this was by a Cuban immigrant who was elected Mayor. One could bet that very few of todays population of the now Miami-Dade County know how or why the County got its original and indeed proper name.
So it went on until in the age of bumper stickers one appeared saying "WILL THE LAST AMERICAN LEAVING DADE PLEASE TAKE THE FLAG" - pretty pathetic and sad. Then we had the Mariel Boat Lift when thousands of Cubans arrived having not been stopped leaving Cuba by the Castro regime and ended up sleeping in the streets of Miami under highways and byways. Eventually this led to a stadium being opened to them that turned it into something akin to the slums of Calcutta, India. This led to Act 2 coming on stage with President Clinton, another keen political animal, signing the "wet foot, dry foot" adjustment to the Cuban Adjustment Act. From then on if Cubans landed on the beach they could stay if they were picked up at sea they got sent back. We know of course exactly how many dry foot persons there are but an unknown number lost their lives as wet footers. It was an unwise and foolish policy from Act 1 through Act 2 and led to discrimination to all other immigrants, those in the Caribbean Basin and particularly Haiti which suffered even more than Cuba leading to resentment against the Cubans. It also led to a human smuggling business of huge proportions.
Now finally President Obama in his last few days in office wrote Act 3 rescinding both the CAA and CMPP Acts. From yesterday all Cubans without a visa from the United States Embassy in Havana, Cuba will be refused entry to the United States of America and those landing on the beach will be returned to Cuba.
All very interesting but what has this to do with we seafarers. Well at sea there is the long tradition of stopping to help and rescue those in trouble on the water. However thanks to this very ill advised Act the ships were caught between "a rock and a hard place". In rescuing these Cubans from various types of floating contraptions we are then placed in the position of applying U.S. Federal Law without even in most cases being U.S. Citizens. For the cruise ships outward bound from Florida Ports this means keeping the "rafters" as they are known on board for an entire cruise. Then on the homeward passage handing them over to the USCG for return to Cuba. In some cases this was actually done by some cruise ship masters but in most cases their position was just reported to the USCG and left to the U.S. Authorities to take action.
NAUTICAL LOG experienced this several times over the years including being in a chartered vessel returning Haitians to their island one of the most heartbreaking experiences of 50 years as a professional seafarer.
So now it is over both the President and the Play leave the stage and everybody goes home.