By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
SEVEN Cuban migrants were turned over to Bahamian immigration officials in Grand Bahama on Thursday at Freeport Harbour.
The group was intercepted in Bahamian waters by the US Coast Guard and taken to Grand Bahama around 3pm.
Immigration officer Napthali Cooper said the group of migrants is the first to be intercepted at sea and brought to Freeport since the Obama administration announced the end of the United States’ “wet foot/dry foot policy”.
At the Progressive Liberal Party’s convention on Wednesday evening, Minister of Immigration and Foreign Affairs Fred Mitchell reported that nearly 1,200 Cubans were repatriated to Cuba last year.
On January 12, before leaving office, US President Barack Obama ended the long-standing “wet foot, dry foot” policy that favoured Cubans, allowing those who arrive in the United States without a visa to apply to become permanent residents.
It was one of the final foreign policy decisions of President Obama. Many believed that the policy amounted to preferential treatment for a single group of migrants.
“By taking this step, we are treating Cuban migrants the same way we treat migrants from other countries,” Mr Obama wrote in a statement on January 12.
President Donald Trump was sworn into office on January 20. Some expect his administration to reverse Mr Obama’s decision.
Cubans have been risking their lives at sea for decades to reach the US. Those caught at sea are detained to await repatriation to Cuba or another country.