Shortly after 27 Cuban refugees set foot on a Florida beach in the wee hours of Saturday, July 14, Providence saw fit that I was among the first Americans to welcome them.
Along with a dozen or so homeowners and vacationers on Little Gasparilla Island, my teenagers and I witnessed the faces of men, women and children who had their first taste of freedom. They arrived on the quiet, sandy shores just before sunrise and instantly went from great peril to free people.
The U.S. “wet foot, dry foot” policy grants asylum only to those Cubans who actually set foot on our shore, rather than to all who make it to open or U.S. waters. The inane plan was adopted by the Clinton administration, a policy that includes charging the United States Coast Guard with preventing the freedom-seekers from ever reaching dry land. Clinton allowed himself to be, in effect, blackmailed by Castro who had begun loading criminals and the mentally ill onto boats and shipping them to the United States. Castro threatened Clinton with a massive immigration crisis and succeeded in perverting America’s long-standing policy of providing protection to escapees of communism.
Understanding the political suicide of outright reversing the practice of helping those who flee, Clinton shrewdly decided to slice the baby in a political move that no president or Congress has been brave enough to challenge and change. And decent, patriotic Americans in uniform who enlist to protect liberty and serve our nation are assigned the task of returning the desperate to their captors.
Very few make it all the way -- the courageous men, women and children I met are among the blessed few who have. Somehow, they avoided detection by the brutal communist officials who scour the Cuban waters for escapees, braved and survived the unpredictable open seas, slipped by the U.S. Coast Guard and overcame so many other odds stacked against them. Yet the event went largely unnoticed by the U.S. media.
The Cubans’ arrival just happened to be on the eve of the 49th Observance of Captive Nations Week. Of course, they knew not the significance of the date of their flight. Since 1959 -- the same year Fidel Castro seized control of the small Caribbean island just 90 miles from our country -- the third week of July has been designated by Congress to remember and show solidarity with those oppressed by communism “until such a time as freedom and independence shall have been achieved for all the captive nations of the world.” What happened to that vision?
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