WASHINGTON – Changes to the United States’ immigration policy toward Cuba are “possible” but would only occur after the two countries have completed the process of normalizing their bilateral relations and the decades-old economic embargo on the Communist-ruled island has been lifted.
Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Mari Carmen Aponte made the remarks in an interview with EFE coinciding with the first anniversary of the upgrading of the two nations’ respective interests sections to embassies on July 20, 2015.
“I think in the future – when (other) situations are being contemplated ... (and) where other things would first have to be changed – that could be possible,” Aponte said of the potential repeal of special immigration policies that favor Cuban migrants.
Since December 2014, when the two countries announced the start of the process of normalizing relations, Cuba has repeatedly urged the repeal of the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act and the accompanying policy known as “wet foot, dry foot.”
Cuba complains that those measures, which provide those able to make their way to U.S. soil a fast pathway to citizenship, encourage illegal emigration from the island.
Only the U.S. Congress can repeal the Cuban Adjustment Act and also must have the last word on the “wet foot, dry foot” policy, a revision to the CAA based on a 1995 agreement with Cuba that calls for directly repatriating Cubans intercepted at sea while allowing those who reach U.S. soil to stay and seek permanent residence.
Aponte, who replaced Roberta Jacobson – the current U.S. ambassador to Mexico – in May, also referred to Cuba’s complicated economic situation stemming from the crisis in Venezuela and accompanying drop in crude shipments to the island.
“The decrease in the amount of oil (Cubans) can receive from other countries is going to require some adjustments to the economy and the Cuban government’s plans,” Aponte said.
It would therefore be “very wise” for Cuba to diversify its energy sources to reduce its reliance on Venezuelan oil and become more independent, she added.