For the first time in seven years, the Coast Guard did not intercept a single Cuban migrant in April trying to enter the United States.
Normally around this time of year, the Coast Guard would pick up anywhere from 50 to 150 Cubans attempting the journey at sea, but now that figure has dropped to zero, which matches a similar drop in migrants crossing into the United States through the southwestern border, the Associated Press reports.
Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft pointed to the repeal of the “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy as the reason for the precipitous decline of sea journey attempts, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal.
President Barack Obama killed the policy just a few days before he left office as part of his attempt to normalize relations with Cuba. The policy, implemented by former President Bill Clinton in 1995, essentially allowed Cubans who managed to reach U.S. shores to stay, while Cubans caught in the middle of the sea on their way over were sent back to Cuba. The Cubans who reached U.S. shores were allowed to apply for a green card after one year.
Trump vehemently criticized the wet-foot, dry-foot policy as unfair last February.
The number of Cubans fleeing the island nation actually increased after Obama announced in 2014 that he was restoring relations between the United States and Cuba.
In 2016 alone, the Coast Guard intercepted 5,496 Cubans by sea and over 56,000 Cubans arrived through other means.
Zukunft also noted that Trump’s aggressive border crackdown was partially responsible for the decline in Cubans coming over by sea to the U.S.
“Numbers across the board are way down, at sea and even on the land border,” Zukunft said. “Clearly, the policies that are out there right now, especially if you have a criminal record, you’re going back to your country of origin. I think that sent a pretty strong signal up and down the food chain that you aren’t going to get a welcome mat if you gain illegal entry into the United States.”
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