With little more than 90 miles separating the Miami coast from Cuba, many Cubans hoping to start a new life in the United States travel by boat to Florida. The Cuban government has long been considered repressive by the United States, so a policy called the Cuban Adjustment Act was enacted to help Cuban refugees who are fortunate enough to set foot on American soil. According to The Washington Post, this is also known as the wet-foot dry-foot policy. If Cubans make it to land, they can file for asylum and may be eligible for permanent residency and eventual citizenship; however, if they are caught at sea, Cubans are usually sent back to their home country.
In 2014, the Obama Administration announced the possibility of normalizing America’s relations with Cuba. As a result, many Cubans fear the wet-foot dry-foot policy will soon end, making it more difficult for them to enter and remain in the United States. The U.S. Coast Guard stopped 4,462 Cubans at sea in fiscal year 2015, compared to 2,059 the previous fiscal year. The increased numbers may highlight a direct result of these fears.
Cubans entering the country by boat face more difficulties than the legal hurdles awaiting them at their destination. The journey is known to be dangerous. Refugees often make the trip in overcrowded or rickety vessels, and may also face brutality from human smugglers. Some choose a longer, yet relatively safer, route by air or through Mexico instead.
It is unknown whether the Cuban Adjustment Act will be changed in the near future. Regardless of the current policy, you have the right to seek legal help for immigration issues upon entering the country. This information, however, is not meant to be taken as legal advice.