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Abstract

In January 2016, former President Obama announced the end of the “Wet-Foot, Dry-Foot” Policy, which granted special immigration benefits to Cuban migrants. As part of the agreement to end this policy, the Cuban government agreed to take back its citizens with final orders of removal for criminal convictions, an action that it had refused to take for decades. This Comment will begin by exploring past and present immigration policies between the United States and Cuba, including recent developments like the normalization of relations and the impact of President Trump’s immigration policies.

This Comment will then explore possible avenues of relief for the over 34,000 Cubans who have final orders of removal for convictions that are often minor or decades old, but who are suddenly at risk for deportation. First, this Comment will argue that the Department of Homeland Security should exercise discretion in deportation priorities in a humanitarian fashion through a weighing of positive and negative factors and by filing joint motions to reopen when appropriate. Next, this Comment will discuss the possibility for some Cubans to argue ineffective assistance of counsel under a Padilla v. Kentucky analysis, due to the potential confusion about Cuba-specific immigration law by non-immigration attorneys handling criminal cases. Finally, this Comment will discuss the possible fear-based claims that a Cuban might successfully make based upon Cuba’s poor human rights record and political turmoil.

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