Two for Tuesday: One foot, two foot, wet foot, dry foot

In January 2006, fifteen Cubans clung for safety on the Seven Mile Bridge after their homemade boat was in danger of sinking. The group attempted to flee Cuba via the Florida Straits, hoping that they could make it safely to the U.S. with “dry feet.”

When a Coast Guard found the group clinging to this bridge, a massive discrepancy took place. The refugees believed that, according to the “wet foot, dry foot” policy, they could continue their journey to the U.S. since they were found on a bridge, therefore technically with “dry feet.” However, according to the Coast Guard, they were clinging to a section of the bridge that “was no longer connected to land,” thus, believing the group to have “wet feet” (LA Times). Cue the queries.

The ruling finally stated that the refugees had “wet feet,” as the Coast Guard argued. They were sent back to Cuba.

This “wet foot, dry foot” policy has been enacted since 1995, stating that fearless Cubans who are caught on the waters between Cuba and the U.S. will be sent back to Cuban soil. If they make it to the U.S., they are allowed to remain.

Many believe that this policy is fair, believing that giving Cuban refugees the right to U.S. citizenship is a generous deal in itself. Others, like Senator Mel Martinez, believe otherwise, specifically in this situation.

“Because [the refugees] reached an old bridge and not a new bridge, there’s a judgment they didn’t reach American soil? The semantics used to return these men and women— who have risked so much to reach freedom and are now returned to an uncertain future— are an embarrassment” (LA Times).

Is this semantically focused policy fair? Is it generous to allow the bravest, most fearless refugees into the U.S. while the unlucky ones are neglected the same opportunity? Or is it fair enough to even allow some in? Comment your thoughts below!

Elizabeth is a Junior Executive Intern at SJG. She earned her BA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison this past May. Outside the office, she enjoys bike riding, listening to music, and hanging with friends and family.