U.S. deports first Cubans since end of ‘wet foot, dry foot’

In this file photo a federal agent walks among shackled immigrants who are being deported.
In this file photo a federal agent walks among shackled immigrants who are being deported.

Two Cuban women who were deemed “inadmissible” for entry to the United States were placed on a morning flight to Havana Friday, becoming the first to be deported since the Jan. 12 elimination of an immigration policy known as “wet foot, dry foot.”

“This morning U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement removed 2 Cuban nationals to Havana,” said a statement from ICE.

An ICE official who spoke on background, as per agency protocol, confirmed that this is the first “removal flight” involving Cubans since the change in immigration policy.

A few days before leaving the White House, former President Barack Obama declared an end to “wet foot, dry foot,” which allowed most Cubans who made it to U.S. soil to stay.

ICE did not specify when or where the women arrived in the United States. But Wilfredo Allen, the lawyer for one of the women, told el Nuevo Herald that they had arrived at Miami International Airport with European passports.

The women requested asylum and were detained. According to Allen, they asked to suspend their asylum application and voluntarily return to the island, for which they already had return tickets.

“The fact that ICE deported them even though they asked to return voluntarily sends a negative message,” Allen said.

Last week, ICE told el Nuevo Herald that it had detained 172 Cubans after the policy change. The number of pending asylum cases has not been disclosed.

Also on Friday, the U.S. Coast Guard returned 11 Cubans interdicted at sea to Bahía de Cabañas, west of Havana. According to the Coast Guard, the flow of Cuban migrants trying to cross the Florida Straits to reach the U.S. has decreased significantly after the elimination of “wet foot, dry foot.”

Follow Nora Gámez Torres on Twitter: @ngameztorres