Change in US-Cuba immigration policy includes expulsion of remaining criminal ‘Marielitos’

jDDYgIK9QGqXoxOUy4Vl_Mariel_RefugeesHAVANA, Jan. 17th Last Thursday’s announcement by US President Barack Obama that he is ending the longstanding “wet foot, dry foot” immigration policy that allows any Cuban who makes it to US soil to stay and become a legalresident also included a previously unreported agreement by Cuba to accept the remaining criminal deportees from the 1980 Mariel boatlift.

The Mariel boatlift in 1980 was a mass emigration of Cubans, who left Cuba’s Mariel Harbour by boat to travel to the United States with the agreement of then Cuban president Fidel Castro.

The arrival of the refugees in the US created political problems for then US president Jimmy Carter, as well as ongoing social problems, when it was discovered that a number of the “Marielito” refugees had been released from Cuban jails and mental health facilities.

When the Mariel boatlift ended in late October 1980, an estimated 125,000 Cubans had reached Florida.

Most were law-abiding, but the Cuban leader had also opened prison and mental institution doors and, within a few years, almost 3,000 of the refugees were in American jails after committing new crimes.

The Cuban government eventually agreed to take back 2,746 of the criminal Mariel refugees. But the deportations were slow and in some years did not take place at all.

In 2005, the Supreme Court ruled that the government could not indefinitely detain Mariel refugees who committed crimes but whom Cuba refused to take back. Since then, many have been set free at the conclusion of their prison sentences.

Nearly 250 of them have died, and, by June of last year, 478 of the original 2,746 to be deported remained in the United States, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Those, however, are not necessarily the ones who will be deported under the Obama administration’s deal with Cuba. Some are elderly or very ill, and the American government has lost interest in deporting them, the New York Times reported.

In their place, Cuba has agreed to accept other Mariel refugees who have been convicted of crimes in the United States but were not part of the original group ordered deported.‘Marielitos’-33207.html