One portion of President Trump's new immigration policy bars the admittance of refugees from entering the United States for 120 days. The left is protesting such actions as bigoted. Protests broke out at JFK airport chanting that refugees were welcome. Democrat Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called the orders “mean-spirited and un-American.”
Indeed, to the left, the idea that America could turn away refugees is suddenly a disgusting thought. Yet President Obama took a similar action to literally turn away refugees in the final days of his presidency - and no one was marching in the streets.
For the past two decades, the United States has treated refugees escaping communist oppression in Cuba and fleeing to the United States with a “wet foot, dry foot” policy. That is, if they were caught at sea (wet feet), they would be returned back to Cuba, but if they managed to make it to U.S. soil (dry feet), they would be allowed to stay and apply for legal residency.
Earlier this month, in an attempt to “normalize” relations with the Castros, Obama gutted the policy - effective immediately.
There are differences; most of those detained at U.S. airports this weekend already have legal status. Yet, much like with Trump's order, hundreds of Cubans in the process of fleeing their country, expecting to gain entry under the old law, were caught in the crossfire and stranded with few options.
According to USA Today, more than 100 Cubans who managed to make it to the U.S.-Mexican border that week were turned away by border guards, citing the new policy:
More than 100 other Cubans have reached the U.S.-Mexico border crossing at Nuevo Laredo but have been turned back by U.S. border guards, citing the change in U.S. policy. Many of them have said they will stay there rather than return to Cuba and apply for a U.S. visa.
According to Reuters, Mexico also deported nearly a hundred more Cuban refugees who managed to make it to Mexico...back to Cuba:
Mexico's government has deported 91 Cubans about a week after the United States ended a so-called “wet foot, dry foot” policy...the repeal of the longstanding policy last Thursday by former U.S. President Barack Obama left hundreds of Cubans who were seeking a new life stranded in Mexico and Central America countries.
Protestors have expressed shock that refugees could be turned away en route to the United States. But, as one expert told USA Today, Obama's policy shift amounted to a similar jolting shock:
“The problem is hundreds, if not thousands, of Cubans were stranded somewhere in Southern and Central America when President Obama changed the policy,” he said. “For the countries in the region, this has been a major issue.”
Was this right or wrong? There's a fair debate there. It's also important to note that, while the refugee program is shut down for 120 days, Cubans can still apply for regular visas to the United States; nationals from the seven countries in Trump's executive order do not have that option.
But I don't recall seeing people marching in the streets decrying Obama as un-American. Where were all these moral-high ground protestors when President Obama was turning away helpless and disillusioned Cuban refugees back to their communist hell?