Miami-based Democratic state Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez says that the judicial system in the U.S. and specifically in Miami-Dade County has operated for decades under the assumption that “nobody could no longer be deported to Cuba.”
But at a press conference held in front of the Freedom Tower in downtown Miami earlier this week, he acknowledged that’s no longer the case under the Trump administration.
“There are tens of thousands of people who are potentially deportable. That are deportable for reasons that have very little to do with the priorities of public safety,” he said.
The press conference organized by the Florida Democratic Party (and can be viewed on its Facebook page) came in response to a Miami Herald story from last week that reported that the Trump administration had deported 120 Cubans on a single flight last month.
While some Florida Democrats are protesting the immigration crackdown by members of the Trump administration, the shift in policy toward Cuban immigrants actually began under President Barack Obama’s administration, according to federal policy at the time.
The policy ended the so-called “wet-foot, dry-foot” practice that allowed Cuban nationals to stay in the U.S., even if they arrived undocumented from a boat, as long as they stepped one foot on solid ground. Cubans intercepted at sea were sent back to the island.
That move, which came at the very end of Obama’s term in office in January 2017, terminated a decades-long policy that some immigration activists had argued was preferential treatment for a single group of migrants.
But while the Obama administration focused mostly on deporting mostly undocumented immigrants who had committed violent crimes, the Department of Homeland Security announced after President Donald Trump took office that they would begin deporting any undocumented immigrant.
NPR reported earlier this year that in fiscal year 2016, 64 Cuban nationals were deported back to the island, but in 2018 that number had increased to 463.
“People are focusing on 120 Cubans who have been deported. It’s actually a lot more than that,” said Frank Mora, a former deputy assistant secretary for Latin America under President Obama.
“In the last fiscal year, there were more than 460 Cubans who were deported to Cuba, and by the way, a very small minority were criminals,” Mora said at a news conference earlier this week. “This administration wants us to think that all the Cubans who are being deported are criminals. That’s simply not the case.”